Update on all things Bell

Here goes, for an update on everything climaty (climatey?) going on in my life.

Let’s start from the inside as ever, in true permaculture style.  I have been working on my self-control and freewill.  I’m able to avoid too many biscuits, although the tin does go down too quickly, and haven’t allowed myself to fall into the trap of too much coffee or alcohol. Mrs Bell was away last week during half-term, and a bottle of wine stayed unopened on the sideboard.  Well done me.

I’m going to use nicknames for the kids from now on in the blog, so they will be Tall, Small and Bubs.  Bubs has just got over a bout of chicken pox, which we’re expecting to pass over to Small in the next few days.  I’ve been walking around London with a very muddy jacket after a kick-about with the kids and a few new friends from nearby Tring – I was in goal but only using my head.

I’ve been excessively busy with my business, but still have managed to find the odd day here and there to keep the climate related projects on the move.  The allotment is pleading for my attention, though, with the compost heap sprouting weeds and nothing being sown so far this year.

In Berkhamsted, organisation for the B-Hive public meeting continues apace.  We have sent out invitations to all of those organisations, groups and businesses we have identified as stakeholders in the town, as well as those on the mailing list.  The public meeting will give us a chance to let the people of the town know what happened as a result of the town consultation we organised last year, and for them to influence what happens next.  Interestingly, a survey run by one of the town councillors (and founder of Transition Town Berkhamsted) on the subject of a proposed multi-story car-park (please, no) showed than no matter what our opinion on car parking we all seem to want a more holistic plan for the town – something like 97% of us.

The opportunities seem to be opening up for a community energy scheme in the town as well, with Seb Beloe starting up a team looking into prospects building on the successes down the road in King’s Langley.  Couple that with some possible interest from a local secondary school and we may be looking at lift-off.

Which will tie in well with the upcoming Transition Beds, Bucks, Herts conference on 23 March.  We’ll be meeting up to talk about how to scale up the movement, while avoiding burn-out and taking time to celebrate.

Further out still, the Power Shift UK conference is getting close to having a date and venue in April.  If you get emails from 350.org, you may have seen something about it.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

Who needs me?

The projects are all moving on, it would seem, in spite of my being busy beyond reason with the business.  More people are getting involved and taking the lead.  My lack of availability has allowed others to take charge, and a fantastic job they are doing as well.

In Berkhamsted, the main projects are Transition Town Berkhamsted (TTB), B-Hive and B-WEL.  B-Hive was the project to find out what the people of the town wanted to see in the centre, which turned out to be more open space, workshops and small business units, plus a museum and performance space.  After an open meeting and a few follow-ups, there is now a slightly wider team involved, setting up a large public meeting to decide what to do next, mapping out the stakeholder groups in the town and drafting publicity to keep the momentum going.  Well done and thank you Jane, Kate, Stephen, Svetlana and Roger for getting back involved.

B-WEL is this new idea to promote the proposed Ecocide law in the town, which was unanimously voted as a good idea by the readers of this blog.  The local paper, the Gazette, are very interested and have asked if we would like to write an article for the paper in Speaker’s Corner, which is usually the stomping ground of the local MP or the Police Crime Commissioner.  I’m hoping that one of the TTB team behind the Ashlyns Lectures will be inspired to write the article.  Go Bex.

TTB itself is on the verge of breaking through, I feel.  There are a number of newly engaged an interested people who are ripe to get involved.  We just need to find the project or projects to hook them.  It is an area that needs my attention, to get the community energy project or Transition Streets up and running.

Slightly more widely, there is the proposed local Transition Town conference.  Having sent out a survey to understand what people would like to see, there is now the job of absorbing that information and booking a venue.  Workshops on community energy, thermal imaging and air tightness gadgets, balancing life priorities, celebration and identifying a unifying strategic intent are waiting in the wings to be organised.  I’ll probably give that a little push.

Then there is the UK and beyond.  The Power Shift UK, part of the Global Power Shift, has now got a few people working part time to make it happen.  Emily has been a star, coming in late on and devoting a large chunk of her time to pushing it along.  The Campaign Against Climate Change, People & Planet, Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and Young Friends of the Earth are now on board, and momentum is building.

And the online platform for challenging misinformation on climate change in the press is on the back burner, awaiting response from the Climate Reality Project.

Of course, all this work has meant that I’ve not seen Rowan and the kids as much as I’d like.  Tell me, is it more healthy to walk for 40 minutes a day or cycle for 10?  I get more out of breath with the cycling.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

Me, my family and out from there

Where am I?  This post is an update on all the various projects I am trying to keep afloat.  I have a little too much on.

Some deep thinking over the Christmas period, while North Wales was battered with 100 mph gusts, has lead me to conclude that I need to prioritise from the inside out.

What does that mean?  It means I first need to make sure I am taking care of my inner self, then my health, then family, friends, home.  After that I can start to look at my local area, town and then further afield to the rest of the UK and abroad.  Unless I take that approach, anything I do that reaches too far from myself will be built on shaky and uncertain foundations.

So, what I should be doing is training myself to be in the moment, with a grounded understanding of where I am pointing.  Then making sure I get enough sleep, a decent diet and exercise.  I’ll give myself a 5 out of 10 for that – too many late nights, not enough exercise and ending up ahead of myself all too often.

Family life is fun and fulfilling at the moment.  Rowan and I are in a very good place, and the children are a laugh a minute, while still growing fast in all regards.  Little James is enjoying standing, not yet walking.  I’d like to spend more time with them.  8 out of 10 for family.

Rowan and I are trying to sort the house out, with a major, if slow, de-cluttering exercise underway.  An aversion to waste has lead us to hoard leads, toys, magazines, off-cuts, you name it.  So we are trying to be ruthless in clearing it all out.

In Berkhamsted, there is the B-Hive project as well as the Transition Town.  The B-Hive is the community initiative to give a voice to the people of the town to have their say about how it develops, and is now becoming the vehicle to help deliver those needs.  After a town consultation and a 96-page report, we’re now lobbying local government and building up the capacity of the team.

On 22 January, Transition Town Berkhamsted (TTB) are hosting the second Ashlyns Lecture, with the incredible Polly Higgins coming to the local secondary school.  Polly is one of the top 10 most visionary people in the world according to the Ecologist, and I am looking forward to her visit.  We’ve been out at the market raising awareness and selling tickets.  Book your place now!

Next steps for TTB are to identify a big project or two to rally the troops around.  My preference would be either community energy or Transition Streets.  I’ll give myself a 7 out of 10 for the local town.

Beyond that, I’m organising two conferences.  The first is for the dozen or so Transition Towns in the area, so we can share our stories and ideas.  The second is the UK Power Shift, part of the Global Power Shift, which links strategically in with the UK climate movement.  The aim of the latter is to link the climate change activity in the UK with each other and to the rest of the world, so we can all feel part of a major movement towards a more responsible future.  I’ll give myself a 7 from 10 for UK and abroad, but this could slip if we don’t get more support.

Oh, and there is the ongoing idea of creating an online platform to allow people to challenge the misleading climate change articles that appear all-too-often in the press.

In general, I’m wanting to build up the number of people involved in the projects in the local town, UK and abroad.  I don’t want to see any of the initiatives collapse, and so I’m trying to make sure there are enough people behind each before I can start to take a back seat and concentrate on one or two priorities.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

Less work means more

Funny how life works out, isn’t it?  The business is going through a lull, resulting in more time for organising a workshop for Global Power Shift, getting the next steps on the B-Hive sorted, developing an idea for tackling misinformation in the press and moving to a farm…

An email went round in my business circles recently, stating that the Department for Transport had identified a potential problem with the software I have specialised in.  I felt a little down for a few days, as the work dried up, but realised what an opportunity had opened up.  I now have a few weeks of time on my hands to devote to the other aspects of my life.  The opportunities for the climate change work are opening up.  Glad to have more than one iron in the egg basket.

The disparate group of young activists involved in the UK team of the Global Power Shift are starting to get organised, and I’m giving as much support as I can.  Would you believe I am almost the grandad of the group.  I am helping organise a weekend away to allow them to spend a decent amount of time together to develop the general direction of opening up the climate change movement to a more diverse and non-traditional cross-section of people in the UK and to sort out their own governance.

The date for this weekend is 26/27 October, which coincides nicely with a trip to Wales to see my folks.  We’ll be taking the kids to a Halloween party at the Leisure Centre my mother is running in her retirement.

With Transition Town Berkhamsted, we’re starting a series of talks called the Ashlyns Lectures.  They will be one per school term at the local secondary school.  We had comedian Mark Stevenson lined up for 5 Feb, but then had the opportunity for Polly Higgins to come in during late Jan, which seemed a pity as it would be too close to Mark’s talk.  But as luck would have it, Mark had to postpone, which opened up the door for Polly.  The real coincidence was that Mark suggested a revised date for his talk, which happened to be the already-booked provisional date for the third Ashlyns Lecture on 21 May.  Thank you Mr Fate, whoever you are.

You may have noticed that climate change is getting more press recently, in the run up to the release of the 5th IPCC report on 27 Sept.

Don't let them do it to you

Don’t let them do it to you

  This has led to a spate of factually inaccurate, misleading and biased articles appearing in the primarily Murdoch-run papers and news channels.  We shouldn’t allow this propaganda to get out there unchallenged.  While jogging in the woods it came to me that we could set up an easy mechanism for people to make official complaints about these articles, based on the science.  It’s early days, but conversations with John Cook at Skeptical Science, Avaaz, The Tree, Friends of the Earth International and The Climate Reality Project seem to be going somewhere fast.  Watch this space.

The lull has also offered me the chance to organise the next steps on the B-Hive town consultation I have been involved with.  The architects are meeting tonight to pull together the ideas of the townspeople.  I’m also setting up a meeting of all of the Transition Towns in the area to get ourselves organised – that’s 20 Oct.

Then there is the potential community purchased of Ballspool Farm in nearby Kings Langley.  I’ll get involved with that if it looks promising enough, to help lead to my dream of creating a self-contained community of like-minded individuals which treads lightly on the environment but is also capable of living through any kind of breakdown in society.  Yes, that could easily happen.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke