The official views of the UK government on climate change

Following up from my meeting with my MP David Gauke, I did get a letter back from him just a month later.  Not bad going given previous form.

It was a short letter forwarding on a more detailed letter from Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth.

It doesn’t seem to address the first of the two actions Gauke took from our surgery directly – about them taking leadership on the issue of climate change.

I’m now left wondering whether to follow that up with Gauke, or to start a Freedom of Information request to see whether he followed up on both points, or just the second.  What do you think?

Here is the letter below – at least a useful piece of paper to brandish:

Letter from Bourne July 2015-page-001 Letter from Bourne July 2015-page-002


Show the Love

Hello everyone.  It has been a shamefully long time since I wrote anything on my blog, as I realised that simply writing it was taking a lot of my time, and I needed to prioritise time with my family, working on the business and actually getting on with the job of Transition.

Quick update below, but first to Valentine’s Day.  Transition Town Berkhamsted is a member of the Climate Coalition, which I’m sure I have mentioned before.  They are a group of 100+ organisations, from NUS to Christian Aid, WWF to Grandfathers Against Climate Change, RSPB to

Boy, are they getting organised, as the movement gears up to the Sustainable Development Goals in September and the international climate change agreement in Paris at the start of December.

It all starts with the video above, which I’d urge you to share around.  Let’s all #showthelove and put our hands up about what we care about, and is threatened by climate change, now and for future generations, here and abroad.

To show you care, download instructions as to how to make a tiny green heart, or make one of your own, and wear it.  And this Valentine, #showthelove by giving your loved ones a heart using this fantastic online tool.



PS – just found out that the credit for the photo in the banner goes to our very own Hannah Henderson, who is now working for Christian Aid.  Love you Hannah!  Great job.

Fracking government speech

Been a long while since I’ve posted up on here, as I’m making sure I do a good job on a smaller number of things for a few weeks.  Planning for the Transition Roadshow, next Ashlyns Conversation, cavorting around with a pan on my head in inner transition while playing with ideas to make meetings more fun and productive, gearing up to the global day of action in September – that’s all still happening.  I’ll write about it all soon.

In the meantime, here is the speech David Cameron would make if he was being honest.  I’m sharing more for it being funny than anything else.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

OK, it’s Wednesday 25 June 2014, nearly a year and a half into my year off, let’s take stock.  In this post I’ll outline my plans for the next few months.

BellvediYou may have noticed that I’ve not been writing as much in the last week or two.  The business is teetering on the edge at the moment, with an avalanche of potential railway projects just up above us as we carefully ascend the mountain of Never-rest.  If a few of the projects land, my business partner and I will be rushed off our feet and thinking of inventive ways to get through the workload.  That’s starting now as we try to get as much preparation under our belts as we can.

Which means life is looking more ordinary, with less zooming about saving the world.

I can justify that by realising that Transition Town Berkhamsted is now stabilised, with a number of people committed to the cause and several projects on the go.  I have realised that the most important work I can do is on myself, building relationships within the community of the people involved in TTB and getting to know the people on my street.  The solutions to the big problems can create big problems in themselves, emphasising the importance of a moral outlook.

What shall I write next?  How about going through plans from the inside to the out like I have done in the past.

So, starting with my inner self.  A smidge of mindfulness, especially when I’m stuck in front of a soul absorbing screen, like the one I am looking at right now.  It will be all to easy to get side-tracked when I am overly busy, forget the body in which I live, moment to moment.  I’m getting exercise riding my bike every day, and will be keeping up the early morning jogging.  Or at least I will when I don’t get drawn into staying up late to watch the World Cup.  I’m eating healthily thankfully, now that the diet is 90% vegetarian and I’m still fasting two days a week (or one when I’m into the habit of exercising regularly).

One thing I have to do, no matter how busy I get, is to remember why I am doing all of this.  My children.  Yes, I spend time with them now, but it is often just when getting them ready to go to school, or for bed at night, apart from the weekends.  Yes, we have fun.  I’ll need to prize them away from the telly after school.

For the plans for allotment, street, town, country (including the For the Love campaign and an upcoming visit to the UK parliament) and planet, you’ll have to wait for the next post.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke


There was a moment’s peace, with the faint murmurings of the dishwasher in the next room only disturbed by the all knowing pronouncements of Mark Lawrenson in comment on the football World Cup match between Spain and the Netherlands.  The children were all in bed, but weren’t quite ready to sleep.

Rowan came downstairs after persuading them to close their eyes, and started to tidy the piles of toys left on the living room floor.  John felt a vague momentary feeling of guilt as he sat and watched, in front of his laptop.

The past few days had been busy and long, with head hitting pillow in the early hours each night.  No contracts had been signed, but there was a lot of work to persuade the railwaymen of Britain to adopt new approaches.  He had to be honest with himself, it wasn’t all slog.  Two of the late nights had involved a spot of food out in London, meeting with friends and colleagues, intent on turning the oil tanker of human society against the drag of willful ignorance about the need to change the way works.

Van Persie scored a wonder goal with a looping header to level the match for the Netherlands.  Holland.  They were playing in Brazil, which is a hot and humid part of the world at the best of times.  In the south of the country, 130 cities are in a state of emergency as torrential rain and floodwater engulf the region, and tens of thousands have been evacuated.

Like a fly gorging on effluent, blissfully unaware of the massive form of the rolled up newspaper poised threateningly above it, the crowds of brightly coloured fans knew little of the trouble brewing just below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.  The Child is awaking, after years of heat building up in the deep ocean.  El Nino is nearly upon us.

El NinoThe much maligned scientists, unfortunate messengers being shot with every new report, have used the technologies at the forefront of the advances of the human race, from vast super-computers to detailed intricate surveys of the extremities of the planet.  Only recently they have finished collating the data, and the news again is not good.  Their is nothing left to stop Antarctica from melting into the oceans, and Greenland is on its way.  The tipping point has passed.  Our oceans will be metres higher, and there is nothing we can now do to stop it.

Interesting times.

John Bell,

Ordinary Bloke

Interview with Transition Free Press

Hello guys.  I am being interviewed today by Michaela Woollatt of Transition Free Press, about my involvement with Power Shift UK.  I’ll post up here when the article comes out.  In the meantime, I answered a few questions via email as a lead up to the interview.  Here are my answers:

Why you became involved in the Power Shift movement?
left a full-time job a little over a year ago to allow me to spend more of my time on what I think of as the most pressing issue of our time, namely climate change.  I was already heavily involved with my local Transition Town, but realised that there needs to be a general change in attitudes nationally if we are to reach critical mass in our Transition.  Having met Nico of at a demonstration in London, I found the opportunity for me to contribute strategically to the movement via the Global Power Shift.
Why you believe there is a need to broaden the climate movement?
In my experience, the movement tends to form around a few key individuals in any one town, village or district.  The people who are involved are those in the circle of friends of those key individuals, from a similar age range, political viewpoint, ethnicity and socio-economic background.  To build momentum at a local level, groups need to move beyond their natural catchment.  As a movement overall, there are certain demographics that are very under-represented.
To gain true critical mass, the movement needs to grow beyond its current reach.
Which groups/movements/individuals do you see as key actors in facilitating this?
Obviously, I see the Transition movement as hugely important.  The Transition movement can take hold in locations outside of the progressive, liberal parts of the country, and I see community energy and Transition Streets, in combination with other initiatives such as Playing Out, as being important in allowing the movement to grow.
The Climate Coalition is key as well, in providing the possibility for groups small and organisations large to join and share progress.  There was talk at Power Shift UK of them providing an online platform to allow successes and experiencce to be shared, so we can all feel part of something bigger, without necessarily feeling as though we need to spend a lot of time at rallies.
And of course the last and most important individual to make sure that the movement is inclusive and grows is you.  Or me.  Or anyone reading.  Growing the movement is not something that will happen overnight.  It will involve thousands of people having millions of conversations with friends and acquaintances.
How groups/movements should do this?
The methods will be different for all, and I wouldn’t presume to know more about what will be effective than people involved in a group already.  but key tips can be gained from the likes of COIN.  People can join in with the more regional Power Shift groups, by contacting Power Shift UK.  They can also, or instead, think about their own local area and which parts of society are under-represented in their group or in their thinking.  And if we share our progress with each other, we can start to realise just how much great work their is all over the country, by a huge number of inspirational and dedicated people, and can gain encouragement to carry on ourselves.
What are the challenges individuals and groups face in doing this?
The challenges are many, but we need to be optimistic and determined.  We need to pace ourselves to avoid burn-out, take on enough to be effective while still doing a proper job.  We need to realise that for a new idea to take hold, you first need to go through a lot of rejection, slowly changing the attitudes and behaviour of a minority, and to not stop there.  Once a few more are saying yes, carry on and a few more will say yes, and start to help your cause.  Patience is needed, which can feel demoralising and defeatist in the face of the urgency of the climate crisis.  But when you realise that the critical tipping point might be just around the corner, you need to keep going.
What can the green movement do to make itself more accessible to all?
Stop calling itself the “green movement” for a start.  It’s not just about saving rainforests and helping endangered species.  It’s much more fundamental than that.  Our way of life will change, either through the climate or the incredible opportunities that advances in technology and provision of renewable energy provide to make our societies more equitable.  We need to find the underlying beliefs that we all have in common, such as a love for the seasons, personal freedom and of our children, all of which need protecting from climate change and inequality.
John Bell,
Ordinary Bloke

UPDATE Nov 2018: NOT ANYMORE – see post

NOTE – UPDATE 4 Nov 2018: Ecotopia no longer exists, so you don’t get the £50 vouchers anymore.  Sorry!  But World Land Trust will still get the £50 to buy rainforest and protect it from destruction, so still use my code!

Woah!  I wasn’t expecting that!

Yes, you read it right – Ecotopia heard what I was doing and have said they will give YOU £50 of vouchers to spend in their online shop if you swap to Ecotricity using my code (see the last post for details).

So, if you swap to Ecotricity, you will get £50, I will buy 1/2 an acre of rainforest, and all the other wonderful stuff I put in my last post will happen.

I honestly didn’t know that was going to happen, it has come out of the blue.  And I’d like to say at this point that I am not being paid by either company to do this, and have no affiliation with them at all.  It’s all just serendipity.


By the way, I’ve just decided to use a hashtag for the first time.  Please use #PracticallySavingTheUniverse.

John Bell,

Ordinary Bloke

Special Post: If you swap to Ecotricity, I’ll buy 1/2 an acre of rainforest

This post is a bit different.  If you swap your energy supplier to Ecotricity*, I’ll donate £50 to the World Land Trust to buy half an acre of rainforest in South America, to protect it from loggers.

Why Ecotricity?  Because their prices are guaranteed to be lower than the Big Six; they have frozen their prices for 21 months; if they raise prices in the future, they guarantee to raise them by less than the Big Six.  How can they do that?  Because the electricity they generate is 100% green and they invest all of their profits in more renewable energy, including research into wave power and green gas plants – which means they are all but immune to changes in the global cost of fossil fuels.  And they guarantee to never use fracked gas.


Plus they are by far the best energy company for customer satisfaction.  They get an average of 0.51 complaints per 1000 customers, against the next best of 3.35 (Good Energy) and 19 to 30 for British Gas, Scottish Power, npower and EDF.

How am I able to make the offer?  Because they have made an offer to all of their customers: If I persuade you to swap to Ecotricity, they will give World Land Trust £30 and you will get £50 to spend at Ecotopia.

Why World Land Trust?  Because they are actively saving rainforests from destruction, which in the end is what I think should be our first priority as the human race.  On average there is roughly 1 species made extinct for every 10 acres destroyed, and 366 tons of carbon dioxide is released (that’s about the same amount as the average Brit is responsible for in their entire life).

I’ve just been on the phone to them, and they have confirmed there is no limit to the number of people who can take up this offer.  Woo hoo!  I’m not sure whether there is a time limit.  For terms and conditions, they say go to

It’s easy to swap – either call them on 08000 302 302 or visit and quote this code: WLT1.  When you have done so, please comment below this post (preferable) or email me so I know how many vouchers to expect from Ecotricity (I’ll only donate for the money I save using vouchers I receive), and you can hold me to account to make sure I donate the right amount to World Land Trust (I’ll put proof of my donation up on this blog).

So, what are you waiting for!  Get on with it!  And share this post far and wide, to the corners of the UK (and beyond for info).

UPDATE!!  Ecotopia have said that they will give YOU £50 of vouchers AS WELL if you swap to Ecotricity using my code!  AARRAGGAHH!  Wow!

John Bell,

Ordinary Bloke

* I am looking to maximise the impact of this, so if you are already with Good Energy I’m afraid you are exempt.  They’re already great.  Also this is only available to people in the UK.

Tricky conversation

As you may know, I am planning to start trying to pull my street together as a community via getting kids out on the street playing and maybe a street party.  At some point I want to move the conversation with my neighbours on to what we can do to reduce our carbon emissions as a group.  This jump causes me some anxiety, as I haven’t got it clear in my head how to start that conversation without undoing the community building work.

So, I’m doing some reading.  When I feel confident again, I’ll try my newfound tactics out in practice with some people I know where I’m not as concerned about the outcome.

So far my logic, reading and some personal experience leads me to postulate that bypassing the confrontational conversation about belief in climate change might be a fruitful avenue to take.  I’ll approach the town of climate change, but take the ring road and go straight to community energy and reducing bills.

ConfrontationLogically, if you want to get people to change their habits, talking about how to go about making that change in a positive way seems to be a good route to take.  Using an analogy, if you want someone to put out a fire, telling them to get that fire extinguisher would be more likely to succeed quickly than first trying to convince them there are flames.  I wonder if the same would work for smoking?  If you talked to an addict about where they could get an e-cigarette, would that make them more likely to quit than discussing lung cancer?

There has been limited scientific research on messages that have been more successful in convincing people of the existence of man-made climate change.  One study showed that describing a positive possible future where climate change is defeated leads people to accept the science, whereas describing a negative future did the opposite. This was particularly true for people who have an underlying belief that the world is a just place.

One evening I went out in London for a meal with friends.  One of us is in denial about climate change.  Although of course they know I am passionate about the issue, I generally avoid that conversation for fear of unnecessarily stoking up an argument.  What I have noticed is that if the subject comes up, by breezing over it as though the debate is simply not there to have, and talking instead about the solutions, leads to a much lighter and more constructive conversation, at least than the one I was expecting.  Interestingly, it also means that the consensus support for action among the group comes to the fore.  When in the past the conversation has been on the more divisive subject of the existence of man-made climate change, it tends to lead to a shorter tete-a-tete involving just the two protagonists, with the rest of the crew keeping their heads down.

So, I think the next step for me will be to construct that happy, constructive story of a positive future, and my plans to get there.  I think the exercise will be good for me personally, as well as preparing me for the trial conversations.

Make sense?

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke