Green Thinkers Newcastle convened for the first meeting of 2016 in a new venue, and with some new members attending. The meeting was chaired by Marek who led an engaging and fascinating discussion exploring some key questions prompted by the text (Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air). The overriding view expressed was that the book opened up a wide range of topics and points for discussion in this vitally important area of future environmental planning. Whilst it was accepted that the analysis and data used in the book had perhaps dated somewhat, this did not detract from the wealth of detail it shone on the opportunities and challenges of developing sustainable energy solutions for the future.
In discussing the book it was particularly appreciated just how complex the issues surrounding sustainable energy are, and the significant point of importance of the need for carefully planned mix of solutions, with no one energy type able to provide all or enough of our needs moving forward. At the same time, it impressed upon the group the degree to which many sustainable energy solutions impact in terms of available land, and competing land uses. The specific challenges of space per head of energy consumption was well illustrated by the exercise the group completed using maps from the book exploring the sheer scale of the sustainable energy footprint on the UK land surface.
A point that raised a good degree of discussion was that whilst the book may have some flaws in areas it perhaps does not cover in detail, or excludes, or where technical progress since it’s publication has moved the debate on, on the whole the significance and importance of developing a detailed plan of action – a task it was felt government should now be addressing – was something that was of value, and touched on what can be done to encourage government to drive policy forward.
Unsurprisingly, the issue of nuclear power came up, not least because the book (perhaps controversially) includes it within the sustainable energy models it explores, and the feeling of the group generally tended towards concern over nuclear as an option we might want to pursue. This was however measured against a clear understanding that there are significant energy security risks (and possible ethical issues) with some elements of sustainable energy provisions from non-UK sources for UK consumption.
The group felt ultimately that the meeting had been a very interesting exploration of some of the key ideas, but that this is such a significant area that perhaps could be explored in more detail at future sessions. Certainly everyone felt that a huge amount of detail had been raised in a very positive and interesting meeting.
One of the most helpful books we have read at Green Thinkers bookclub, for understanding the Climate Change debate, was ‘The Burning Question’ by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark.
The Burning Question is essentially: ‘how will the world avoid extracting and burning the $20 trillion worth of fossil fuel reserves we are currently planning to burn, that will emit 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon emissions?’ – a figure that is five times greater that the potentially ‘safe’ limit of an additional 565 gigatonnes to stay below two degrees of warming.
There are some helpful clues in the book, one being the illustration of a train of three carriages: the first ‘consumption’, the second ‘combustion’ and with ‘extraction’ bringing up the rear.
Trying to slow the consumption and combustion carriages is futile unless the extraction carriage is also slowed down. The effect of was seen recently as the US switched from coal to gas, but continued to extract and export the coal, which was then sold and burnt elsewhere in the world.
Lets hope that any climate change deal today in Paris at COP21 acts on all three parts of the train.
By Marek Bidwell
Nottingham’s next Green-Thinkers meeting will be held at The Tapastry, Heathcoat Street, Hockley on Wednesday 3rd December at 6pm.
We will be discussing Feral : Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life by George Monbiot. For this book we will be asking questions such as:
- What could you easily do to bring the wild into your life?
- How has the book changed your outlook on the British countryside?
- How do you relate to wild spaces and creatures? Are they something you enjoy or would you rather avoid them?
Please feel free to invite friends and family to come along and join the discussion.
Support local business by ordering your book through us from Five Leaves Book Store to get a 15% discount.
Our next Green Thinkers’ discussion will be on 7th January 2016, hot on the heels of the global climate summit in Paris. We will be discussing ‘Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air’ by David MacKay, former Chief Scientific Advisor of DECC.
The book can be either be purchased in hard copy, or read / downloaded for free at www.withouthotair.com where there are also a host of video presentations by MacKay.
Energy is a technical topic and MacKay’s book contains plenty of facts and figures (albeit from 2009) – these will provide useful background information. In our discussion we will ask questions such as:
- Which energy technologies have the brightest future?
- Should energy efficiency take priority over air pollution (ref. VW)
- What has changed in the energy world since 2009?
- Is it a valid position to be anti-coal, anti-fracking, and anti-nuclear?
- What ever happened to carbon capture and storage?
- Where is UK government energy policy heading?
- Where are global energy markets heading?
- Your thoughts on the outcome of Paris 2015?
Date: Thursday 7th January (7-9pm)
Location: The Town Wall pub, Pink Lane, NE1 5HZ. (In the Library Room)
To Book: Space limited so book with email@example.com to assure your place.
John Fullerton worked on Wall Street for 20 years and was a former MD at JP Morgan. In 2001 he resigned, disillusioned with a bank he no longer recognised. Over the next few years he did a lot of thinking and read books that most bankers don’t read! Later in 2010 he founded the Capital Institute to explore an alternative conceptual framework for capitalism – do you agree with his recommendations?
Resources: Regenerative Capitalism – How Universal Principles And Patterns Will Shape Our New Economy (April 2015) http://capitalinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-Regenerative-Capitalism-4-20-15-final.pdf (free to download).
Short Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb1byFOAMRE
Long Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KDv06YOjxw
The meeting will be in the upstairs room at the Jazz Cafe (Pink Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne), starting at 7pm (£3.75 entry on the door, food not included). The Jazz Cafe are keeping their kitchen open for us from 6-7, so please feel free to join me for a bite to eat downstairs before hand. I’ll be there from 6.15.
Please feel free to invite others and share this message by email or social media. Marek Bidwell firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Thinkers met for the second discussion of 2015 at a new venue of Newcastle’s Jazz Cafe. Once again, the group of 10 got their teeth well into the topic.
The meeting opened with initial comments on the theme from members, with including recalling that Newcastle was voted the UK’s most sustainable city two years in a row – a crown that has now been taken by Bristol. Stress was placed on the role of positive leadership to drive such change, and that the wider public must be engaged in wanting the change delivered. Conversely, concern was expressed with the perceived lack of sustainable thinking in the recent development of councils local plans, and that it was essentially a developer-led process.
It was acknowledged that sustainable cities is a broad subject, many different terms are in use which have different implications (eg smart cities, eco cities, data cities). It was also thought that some the ideas discussed in the texts would be difficult to “retrofit” to older city without slash and burn development
After the opening, the discussion began to focus in on some key areas, the first question was: ‘are cities, in themselves, good or bad for local and global sustainability?’. There was a strong feeling that in demonstrating an economy of scale of provision, cities were a more efficient way to plan and deliver services, and in particular services which can contribute to a more environmentally sustainable outcome, such as mass transit and energy share solutions. Both in cost and practicality terms, it was felt that there needs to be a certain density present for infrastructure to be viable.
We then turned to how to define sustainability, and to illustrate this, what factor more than any other was relevant in judging the merits of a city’s sustainability. This raised a range of views including:
- energy efficiency
- the level of happiness of residents
- access to good quality green space
- the need for basic economic means – employment within city which is sustainable economically
An interesting discussion of the actual factors which Newcastle was scored against when winning the sustainable city award put some concrete detail onto the difficult process of pinning down how sustainability can be measured and valued, as well as exploring some of the tools which a sustainable city may be able to deploy.
The question was then asked: ‘does technology assist in making cities more or less sustainable?‘. At this stage, there was some concern expressed as to whether the “smart city” approach has inherent energy intensity risks which the city may struggle to overcome, meaning that whilst the city in and of itself may become more sustainable, it’s wider impacts (city hinterland and beyond) may be detracting from more wider sustainable targets. On the other hand, emerging technologies that make using a city more sustainable were also considered including: oyster card style public transport payment systems; provision of real-time information to allow planning of use of public transport; benefits of home-working arrangements; intelligent adaptive traffic flow management systems; and opportunities for high efficiency traffic movement from driverless route optimised vehicles.
The meeting closed with agreement that the discussion had only scratched the surface of this wide-ranging and highly interesting topic. Members felt that a return to this topic at a later stage would be beneficial at a future meeting. Unlike previous Green Thinkers meetings, there was a strong sense that the discussion was one which could be rooted in very local, and therefore, experiential concerns which brought an angle of interest and engagement to the discussion that stressed how vital this area can be as we move forward.
by Richard Clarke
Dear Green Thinkers,
Just a quick reminder that our next meeting is next week (21st May) in the upstairs room at the Jazz Cafe (Pink Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne), starting at 7pm (£3.75 entry, food not included).
The Jazz Cafe are keeping their kitchen open for us from 6-7, so please feel free to join me for a bite to eat downstairs before hand. I’ll be there from 6.15.
The subject for our discussion is ‘Sustainable Cities’ – click here for full details. Please feel free to invite others, and if you have not already done so please send me a quick email if you are intending to come along.
We discussed many of the benefits that nature provides at a Green Thinkers meeting last year after reading ‘What has nature ever done for us?’ by Tony Juniper. Studies show that people living close to areas of green space enjoy a range of health benefits – many of which were referenced in Public Health England own review’. Two medics who attended our meeting testified to these health benefits from their personal experience.
With the election coming up in May there is the opportunity to do more than discuss these issues – we can vote for an MP, or party, that supports the ‘Nature and Wellbeing Act’ set out in a Green Paper proposed by the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts. Continue reading “Vote for the Nature and Wellbeing Act on 7th May – here’s why…”
I am excited about our next Green-Thinkers discussion on 21st May 2015: Sustainable Cities (see booking details below*). It is a topic that directly affects us all in our day to day lives – whether that is in Sunderland, Newcastle or elsewhere.
In the UK most cities have recently put forward transformational housing development plans to meet projected population growth targets, but do you feel that these plans incorporated a spacial vision for green infrastructure, nature, and health and wellbeing?
We will be asking questions such as:
- What makes a city sustainable?
- Does the green-belt as it is support, or hinder, sustainable cities?
- Which city would you most want to live in and why?