Power Shift UK 2014 – How it happened

It took three hours to get through to London via circuitous route on Saturday, with the trains up the swanny. It was worth every minute to get to Power Shift UK, which after all these months of planning, copious use of skype and the waxing and waning of the team, has now happened.  I feel very privileged to have been part of organising such a historical event.

After buzzing backwards and forwards to London to deliver painting materials for the conference banner and then working late into the night on Friday to make sure we knew the plan for the two days and had some idea of how our introduction would hang together, Saturday morning was about getting the posters, programmes, tea urns and accoutrements to UCL before the delegates started to arrive.

The introduction was due to start at 11am, and I have to admit that as the time drew near and I felt as though the attendance was going to be well down on the 150 people who had booked their places, as I was seeing the same few faces wondering around the building trying to find their bearings that.  I need not have worried, as 130 people of all ages and backgrounds rolled into Lecture Theatre 1 in the Cruciform building to kick off the event.  The other 20 would make an appearance at different times over the weekend.

We had a few inspiring videos lined up to get everyone in the mood for sharing stories and skills and hatching plans to shift the power from those who seem hell bent on destroying our natural world.  We pressed play, and watched some interesting looking pictures of flooding and wild fires, but not a decibel of sound accompanied them.  Veiled panic ensued – all rather annoying given it had all been working beautifully just an hour previously.  Eventually Tom found that someone had sat on the mute button on the remote and the audience were treated to this:

Our carefully planned intro had to be curtailed, which meant my idea was dropped, which would have involved me frantically pointing around while people shouted out a word to describe what they wanted from the weekend.  I’ll have to keep that one up my sleeve for another day.  It’ll be great.

The plenary speakers performed verbal miracles on stage, eruditely communicating on complicated topics, bringing interest and emotion, all without notes.  I have to say that for me personally, it was Fiona Brookes who stole the show, with a speech from the heart about being challenged to accept the innate differences and similarities between each of us.

Power Shift UK - Stretching after Day 1

Only when we are together can we bring about the change in society that is needed for social and environmental equality and justice.  Over the weekend we found out how many different takes there are on how to go about that, and we also recognised how we need to incorporate all of those viewpoints into our thinking.  Once we recognise that we are all part of the same movement, we can move to critical mass.  As George Barda said in one of the opening plenaries, historically it has only taken between 1-7% of the population to be actively following a cause for it to become mainstream.

If the social and environmental movement in the UK can join together effectively, we would have that 4 million activists necessary to change our world for the better.

I was part of Power Shift UK 2014.  Will it be seen by history as one of the steps on that road?  Next – Power Shift UK 2, if the students from Warwick Uni keep their enthusiasm, plus potentially Power Shift Scotland.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke


Where am I? Coo-ee!

This post is a general catch-up on what’s happening in my life at the moment and where I see it going in the short term.  I’ll start with me and work out as usual.

I’ve reduced down to one day fasting from two, because I’ve managed to motivate myself to start jogging again.  With that and the cycling I was edging towards 10 stone, which is a little too low.  I’ve also been reading Sophie’s World, to get a very basic grounding in philosophy – more about that in a later post or two.  I’m intending on grounding my next activities on my insights from this work.

The family are well, with Tall and Small back at school again.  Small is particularly pleased about her new school shoes – it took all of our parenting skills to coax her into taking them off before going to bed.  They made up a fantastic competition last night that involved everyone winning.  Tall had to take as few hops as she could to get from one end of our short landing to the other, and had to do fewer than Small.  Small on the other hand had to try and hop as many times on the same route, and had to hop more times than Tall.  So they both always won.  Genius.  Bubs was happy as well, as he just walked around while everyone counted – great fun.

There has seemingly been a very encouraging response to my pre-requisites for taking on the Transition Town Berkhamsted leadership role for a third year.  For once I was unable to attend our monthly Green Drinks social event at HERE, where they had some very fruitful discussions. As a result, I am very pleased to be able to say that if I’m wanted, I will accept the nomination to be leader again this coming year.  I’m looking forward to the 15th so we can get started – this year will be big.

Then we get to the UK and international level, where we are closing in on the 3/4 May for Power Shift UK, part of the Global Power Shift.  Emily and Lindsay in particular, plus Claire and Susan, have put in a humungous amount of effort in organising every last detail.  The list of speakers and workshops is very exciting, and the aims of the conference to plan the connection of the diverse UK climate movement look very attainable as a result.  It has been a huge strain on those who have put in such a lot of time and energy, and the outcomes will be all the better for it.

If you haven’t already done so, please do register to attend the event.  It’s free.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

Whet your appetite for Sunday of Power Shift UK

Power Shift UK is just over a week away.  While the Saturday will have a load of fantastic workshops and talks on the subject of diversity and the climate change movement in the UK, the Sunday will be for all attendees to work together on how we will convert all of that into action.  While this will be largely an open discussion (Open Space for those who know their facilitation methods), the visionary Claire Morris has written up her thoughts on the topics that might be developed.  If this looks exciting and you want to be part of it, please register now as time is running out.  To whet your appetite, take it away Claire:

1.  Raising and Sustaining Consciousness: How to persist with bearing witness to the severity of the crisis, while sharing real vision, to reach a tipping point in public opinion/social action?

2.  Balancing the narrative and messaging: How to caringly communicate the terrifying destruction but also the possibility for the future if we choose now to work for a thriving world?

3.  The Energy Crisis: Rolling Power Cuts by 2020?  How can we ensure a swift but just transition to 100% renewable energy that is fair, accessible and affordable for everyone?

4.  Reclaiming the Food System from global to local control: How to popularise community farms and agriculture to the point where they are accepted and mainstreamed in the UK?

5.  Building the integrated Global Movement: How to grow a publicly visible, fully participative social movement to apply a critical mass of pressure, to radically shift social/political will?

6.  Divestment from Fossil Fuels & Reinvestment in Renewables: How to stigmatise and dismantle the Fossil Fuel industry & raise up every opportunity to invest in Renewables?

7.  Pushing out every story into the Mainstream Media: How to make a concerted effort to broadcast on TV, radio, newspapers and blogs every community success story and act of resistance?

8.  Uniting on clear, proven, bottom-up solutions everywhere! How to bring people together to implement new systems in our communities from food to energy to tree planting to insulation!

9.  Empowering the masses: How to engage disenfranchised, marginalised or voiceless people, make actions relevant and engaging, and trace the benefits back to the kitchen table?

10.  People Power and Staying Connected and Supported: How to set our individual concerns in the perspective of local needs and wider groups to address problems powerfully collectively?

11.  Overhauling our values: Community, Solidarity, Justice: How to replace greed, fear & insecurity with strong values that build us up: love, peace, compassion, empathy over apathy?

12.  Badgering MPs, local politicians and Government Depts: How to pressure and converse with all levels of government to demand the restructuring of most national systems & policies.

13.  Creating the safe spaces for Real Democracy, collaboration and creativity: How to make platforms/assemblies where people can innovate, debate, plan & work together for change?

14.  Re-Skilling for resilient, adaptive, creative communities: How to nurture “worthwhile work” that rewards and enriches life, and relearn traditional skills and new knowledge to thrive?

15.  Education in and out of Schools: How can we ensure that the truths, and uncorrupted information about global, national and local trends, are taught honestly and openly to people all ages?

16.  Growing personal resilience, determination & inspiration through reflective and mindful practice: How to sustain ourselves through quietness & inquiry into our own responses?

17.  Strengthening and resourcing Grassroots Resistance: How can we as a broad movement support and participate with activists around the country committed to resisting fossil fuels?

18.  Challenging Consumerism, Capitalism and the Status Quo: How do we stand up to the powerful structures and lobbies that block progress, & assist those that are calling for change?

19.  Strategies around COP20, Paris, 2015 & “The Global Deal”: How can we make the best out of the United Nations critical climate negotiations, as well as in the lead up and aftermath?

20.  Engaging with current regulatory and planning systems: How should we interact with current processes in the UK for environmental regulation and the threats to this (e.g. TTIP)?

I’m looking forward to it – hopefully see a lot of you there on 3/4 May – please register now!

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

Get a Shift on

It’s very gratifying to see Power Shift UK taking shape.  Months of discussion and work are finally paying off.  It’s all been from an ever changing team of volunteers, spending their spare time moving the Shift forward (or shifting the movement forward, possibly).

For me, it started before I left my job to help the climate effort in February last year.  I unsuccessfully applied to join the Global Power Shift in Istanbul.  Thankfully that wasn’t the end of the road, as I bumped into Nico Wojewoda of 350.org at a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline.  That got me on to the UK team.Tour

Skype has been our friend, and we’ve made good use of shared documents and email to help new people get on board as quickly as they might.  There have been highs where the team looked unstoppable, such the London Fossil Free tour.  I was brought to tears at a flash mob, singing about the melting arctic.  And there have been lows when the team withered away and was reduced to one or two.

The direction of the Power Shift in the UK took a while to emerge, and I’m glad that it did. Susan, Claire, KMT, Tara, Ben, Phoebe, Asad, Tom, Suzanne and David – the team that did go to Istanbul – lead the way to the theme of increasing the diversity of the climate movement.  The UK is already doing very well, thank you very much, with many groups dealing with fracking, fossil fuel divestment, local food solutions and the like. What is missing a platform which links it all together so that connections are strengthened across all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds – this is the aim of Power Shift UK; to connect us in a movement, together.

This theme and the idea of the Power Shift UK conference that is now happening on the 3rd and 4th May was fleshed out one blustery weekend at the May Project Gardens in Morden in south London.  The team at the time was KMT, Jenny, Tom, Susan, Ben, Claire, Izzy, Tara, David and myself.  Bernadette facilitated as the plans for the conference were put down on paper.  Amanda, Suzanne and Louise have all played their part.

It wasn’t until much later that the date and venue were set in stone, as team commitment and energy went through a lull, which was finally ended with the addition of the marvellous Emily, who was able to dedicate some meaningful time to the task in hand.  She then brought in the Campaign against Climate Change, and in particular the fantastic Fiona, and now we have the remarkable Lindsay as well.  This is the group, with the help of Claire, Susan and myself, who are bringing the plans into fruition.

It was great to hear at the recent gathering of the Climate Coalition (formerly Stop Climate Chaos Coalition) just how well our plans fit into the wider UK climate movement.  We’re on the right track.  The Power Shift will help lead through to the “For the love campaign” and an escalating series of events leading towards the crucial talks in Paris next year, where the governments around the world will put pen to paper with a deal on climate change.  We’re going to make sure that deal is up to the task, while building the solution from the bottom up should the politicians fail.

It all starts on 3/4 May – come and be part of history.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

My part in the UK climate movement

Over the past year or so, I have met with a number of the leading lights in the UK grassroots climate movement.  We’re all part of it, we just don’t always know that we are or realise that there is a movement at all.  The Power Shift UK is aimed at bringing us all together, as part of wider strategies from other UK and international climate change organisations.

I see the movement as providing so much that it is hard not to agree that it is a hugely positive influence on life in the UK.  Thousands of groups and people around the country are working in their own way to bring community back into their neighbourhoods, where at the moment we are getting used to an insulated lifestyle that revolves around a digital display.  They are finding ways to generate electricity from the sources of energy provided to us by nature.  They are finding ways to reduce our outgoings so we can have a better standard of living.  They are preserving their local natural habitats from an increasing human population and its consequent demands on our natural world.

I am not alone in finding the work a huge drain on my time and energy, as I spend countless evening and days away from the family in meetings.  It can and does feel depressing and feed exhaustion in the face of seemingly overwhelming apathy, wilful ignorance and destructive behaviour from what seems like the majority.  The political class follow what they feel is the vote-winning majority view, and fail to see the opportunities of a change in direction or the dire consequences of our current path.

That is why I am part of Power Shift UK (3/4 May – book your place now, it’s free, and we might even pay to get you there) which is working with the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) to unite the UK climate movement at all levels.  The strategy aligns with that of the other UK climate organisations, represented by the Climate Coalition.  It is Power Shift “UK” because there are Power Shifts happening all over the planet, from the places most affected by climate change in Africa and the island nations, to the lead culprits in Australia, the US and Canada.

Power Shift UK - 3/4 MayI have been working with Fiona and Laeti at CCC on a funding application to help support the work.  This is where we are at in describing our aims:

  • To provide concerned citizens and groups with a platform for discussion and learning around climate change issues; to build a strong foundation and diversified movement to ensure a just transition towards climate justice and action
  • To give communities and their projects the spotlight and opportunities to demonstrate that alternatives and solutions to climate change are possible; To learn from these community solutions; To invite communities to share their skills in and outside the climate movement.
  • To influence policy and key decision makers in the UK in order to provide a mandate for them to implement the example solutions and alternatives put forward by our British communities; To create space for change to protect citizens who already suffer the consequences of climate change in the UK.

Knowing we are part of a much bigger movement breeds togetherness and a positive, re-enforcing energy that helps to conquer the exhaustion.  It brings inspiration, ideas, skills and experience that strengthen what we do.  It allows people who are partially involved, or are merely at the moment observers, to give themselves permission to join the movement, be that making changes in their own lives, taking part in an event or helping with an initiative.

This groundswell will give the politicians the mandate to enact legislation and bring in policies to turn the tide and bring the rest of us along.  Critical mass will be reached and apathy and ignorance will be swept up in the river of change and what might at the moment seem like inconsequent activity will be justified.  It is that vision that keeps me going.

Will it happen?  I can only hope.

Global power shift flyer 2

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

For the love

I love walking with friends and family, or on my own, in the summer, winter, autumn and the spring.  I love a good book.  I love eating.  I love my wife.  I love my children.  For the love of all that I care for, we must get to grips with climate change.

You’re now supposed to be ripe and ready to have a conversation about what it means to tackle climate change.  The “For the love of…” campaign of the Climate Coalition has been carefully designed and researched to have the maximum impact on those people who are ready to talk about climate change.

The research was carried out by COIN (Climate Outreach and Information Network), who ran workshops with a range of people to understand what messages worked, and what fell flat.  Not surprisingly, they found that people find most existing rhetoric on climate change disenfranchising, over-presumptive and preachy.  Pictures of polar bears and discussions of the “most serious threat we face” are a turn-off.  Certainly explains why it’s only really the “converted” that read my blog.

The one message that did gain traction was in tapping into people’s emotions and asking them what they love.  Almost certainly, whatever that is will be under threat by climate change.  You can then say something like “For the love of chocolate, we must do something about climate change”.  And so the conversation starts and is remembered.

This only works for people when the example is something real and precise, rather than abstract.  “For the love of the future” wouldn’t cut it.  It seems that the more emotional the connection and the unexpected the example the better. “For the love of a decent pitch” might work.  Above all, the message will be respected if it is seen as being said with integrity.

Next Monday I’ll be going to a meeting with the Climate Coalition to discuss the launch of this campaign, with 80 other representatives of the 100 or so organisations that form the coalition, representing their millions of supporters.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

There were a couple of other interesting insights in the COIN research.  One was that conservatives and community-minded optimists (like me) alike identified avoiding waste as a core value.  I wonder if the information that we dump 40kg of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for every 1kg of waste we put in landfill would bring a few more people along?

The other titbit of information in the COIN research was that a lot of people involved thought that examples of real people doing real things to solve the climate change problem would be persuasive.  Diverse voices work.  I’m glad to hear it, as that is the focus of the Power Shift UK conference in London on 3/4 May.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

Conference Pair

I love it when a plan comes together.  After taking on a little too much before Christmas, not anticipating work taking off in January, I’m very happy to say that two of the initiatives are bearing fruit.  Not one, but two conferences are over the next few weeks.

The local Transition conference is now scheduled for Sunday 23 March, and we have our line-up.  If I’d had more time we may have been able to advertise it earlier, but it is happening, which looked a remote possibility just a few weeks ago.  Thank you to John Ingleby in particular for picking up the reigns.

It will run from 10 to 4, with workshops on starting an energy co-operative (we’re starting one in Berkhamsted), how to use gizmos like thermal imaging cameras, building community street-by-street, food security, personal resilience (I need this, getting run down) and scaling up the movement (we all need this).  All will be run by local Transition Towns, other than the personal resilience and scaling up workshops, for which we have Andrew Davies to thank.

If you are interested in coming along, you can book in here.

And not to be outdone, the Power Shift UK is in the diary.  This one really is for all of us.  It will be on the weekend of 3/4 May.  The theme will be connecting all of the disparate elements of the climate movement in the UK, particular to give voice to the down-trodden or marginalised in society.  The itinerary is not particularly confirmed at the moment, but is likely to include expert workshops on confronting oppression in organisations, practical skills in creating wind-turbines and training in the use of a new online platform created by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition for the sharing of stories in the fight against climate change.  Huge thank you to Emily Myers, Susan Poupard, Claire Morris and to Fiona Brookes and the rest of the Campaign against Climate Change team.

Watch this space.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

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