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


Honey wine, a Compost toilet & Shifting the Power

A week ago Saturday I met up with the wonderful young people of Global Power Shift UK.  We managed to combine Eritrean honey wine, a night out in a trendy part of Brixton and a compost toilet with strategizing how to shift the power from money to people.

I’d got involved with the Global Power Shift (GPS) by first unsuccessfully applying to go to Istanbul earlier in the year.  I then met Nicolò Wojewoda of 350.org at a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline in London and went from there.

All national and regional GPS teams, covering everywhere on the planet where there are people, were tasked with creating their own Power Shift event.  The UK team has run a few events that could be described as a Power Shift and badged a few others with the same branding, but up until now hasn’t really found the unifying theme and idea that could be the start of something special.

Meeting in the British Museum with Nico, Ben Kurzman and Susan Poupard a few weeks ago, with my daughter Maddie reading a book beside us, we decided to hold a weekend workshop for the GPS UK team so we could nail down our ideas.

And so it was that a week ago Saturday I was waiting in fantastic Eritrean restaurant Adulis, sampling the honey wine and doing impressions of my son James’ Gollum-like crawl.  Femi was the unfortunate beneficiary, cousin of hip-hop artist KMT, who was to be our host.
Chess Set at May Project
We had a very interesting meal scooping up various different dishes with the think pancake-like bread injera and downloading the mind of Tara, who was unable to attend the workshop proper the following day.  The über-trendy Café Cairo was next – I was well out of place wearing my combats and carrying a rucksack.

I spent most of the night with my head on the floorboards in the music studio at the May Project Gardens in Morden, at right angles to the sleeping mat I’d brought.

The following morning started with my needing to negotiate the lack of toilet paper in the house.  I tell you, I was relieved, in both senses of the word, when I found the compost toilet marked on the helpful, painted map of the gardens.  The May Project Gardens is an inspirational permaculture set-up at the back of a council house in south London, complete with frog pond, herb spiral and polytunnel.  It was founded by a guy called Randy, whom I’ve not met, and KMT.  Permaculture is a way to live and to grow that apes nature, where waste is an alien concept.  It is highly efficient landwise – you get 2-4 times the produce by land area than farming – and requires less labour, chemicals and machinery.  The future as far as I can see.

The confidence inspiring Bernadette Fischler facilitated the workshop, which started outside with each of us drawing up a coat of arms representing our take on the GPS UK.  It was the day before the huge storm that cut through Southern England, so after a short while and a delicious falafel lunch we graduated indoors
GPS UK team at May Project Gardens
The upshot of our meeting of minds was a confirmation of our consensus view that we are here to help shift the power from money to people.  We intend to be the glue that allows diverse grassroots initiatives to share with one another and with the rest of the world.  To get that started, we are thinking that a Power Shift event where the those people and groups outside the traditional institutions can come together to meet each other, share stories and learn how to engage with the mass media.

Shift the Power UK is born.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke