Making Change in How We Live, Where We Live, in Light of Climate Change (FOR TWELVE YEARS!)

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Leo's Garden: an oasis tucked above Tooting

Tooting has a new and delightful asset!
A new garden balcony for all the staff at the Tooting campus of South Thames College opened today in memory of Mumney Olusanya (or Leo, as he was better known). Leo was Facilities Manager at the Tooting campus, and died on the 31st October 2013. Leo’s Garden is a University and College Union initiative and was opened by Angie Birtill of the Trade Union Studies Centre.

Angie raising a fizzy apple juice as a toast to Leo's memory

Spring bulbs were planted later today in memory of Leo, adding to the planting done over spring and summer this year - all funded by the volunteers themselves. As well as a memorial to Leo, the garden is consciously about health and safety - creating an attractive place for any college staff to boost their wellbeing during a busy day. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

From the Local to the International - Journeys of imagination and generosity at the Transition Network International Conference

Back in September, Charles Whitehead wrote a preview piece about 8 of us from Tooting heading to the Transition Network International Conference at Seale Hayne, Newton Abbot. We went by caravan, car share and train arriving the day before, early afternoon and late at night.

You can read all about how we contributed to the conference in Charles' blogpost here. Following the conference, we were all excited to share our experience of it as it had so much energy to give! Please do click on the links in the highlighted words, if they are of interest. There is also a Storify of the Conference and a blog on the Transition Network site.

Tooting heads West!
Home away from Home, with cake!

After arriving, pitching our tents, siting and re-siting our caravan and finding our rooms, Jenny , Hilary and myself participated in the Transition Skills day, learning lots about Transition Thrive , designing a new economy in "REconomy" and how to "Become your own Developer" before the conference actually began.

Meanwhile, Lucy was running her own workshop on Creative Engagement, she writes...

"Once I'd recovered from the news that my main collaborator, Ruth Ben-Tovim (she of the Tooting Transition Shop from 2012), was sick and I would have to get on and run the day long Transition workshop on the arts and creating community on my own, I decided this Transition Conference (my 4th) was going to be about getting on and doing it with the resources I had to hand. I calmed myself by imagining the 14 strangers I was about to meet and wondering why they could be interested in learning about the craft of making things happen, and the art of creative participation. The knowledge they would all be doing this in a Transition context i.e. making the world we want to live in by modelling the changes in how we live where we live, immediately made me relax. I felt I could be myself and invite them to give all of themselves to the workshop, which they did! The day was astonishing for the rich diversity of their expertise, their generosity to give and gain from one another and the final artworks they created together. I was bowled over by how much creative ground we covered and my abiding faith in the central role our imaginations and creativity play in Transition. I have spent 3 years capturing this in the transition book in the arts, Playing for Time - making Art As If the World Mattered and it felt as if the book had in a sense, come home.

This feeling of generosity, sharing and common goals was echoed by Jenny's experience, she reflected later:

"It was inspiring and encouraging to meet other people from around the world who share a vision for a fairer, more community-led world. A focus on collaboration, partnerships and relationship building was a common theme. It's something we cherish in Transition Town Tooting and will continue to build in 2016. A Neighbourhood Plan, Foodival and our garden projects wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the generosity and energy of our partners and volunteers".

My experience during the Transition Thrive training was similarly applicable to our activity in Tooting and encouraged me to be active in looking after the wonderful volunteers and core group of Transition Town Tooting as well as offering the opportunity to participate to more people through Open Days and outreach.

Our Workshops: Outdoor Learning with Young People and Creative Facilitation with FanSHEN

Day 2 and the conference proper begins... Jenny, Charlie, Sharon and I hosted a workshop on Outdoor Learning with Young People. We shared our work in Outdoor Learning in 3 areas:

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

So what is outdoor learning?

For the past 2 1/2 years, TTT has been running outdoor learning classes with pupils from Gatton, a local primary school in the community garden. From weekly sessions with Reception and Year 1 classes, to 7-week projects with the Year 6 students, the classes encompass a huge range of cross-curriculum learning, developing new skills and vocabulary and allowing the children to fully interact with nature in the safe and beautiful environment of our garden.

But I still get asked regularly, what exactly is outdoor learning? So, here's a brief example of my class today, on a beautiful autumn morning with a lively Year 1 group...

After warm greetings and not-at-all-exaggerated reports on how much they had grown over the summer holidays, the children discussed the different seasons, today's weather and how the sunshine made them feel: happy, bright and a bit sweaty! We then looked at some of the plants we had been growing - a cherry tomato that I picked just before they arrived and a beetroot. They were very excited to discover that beetroot acts as a natural dye and took great delight in getting a red thumb. We also went to look at the green and yellow pumpkin that was growing in the vegetable beds.

Then we played an energetic game of seek and find, bringing back different numbers and colours of grasses, leaves, pinecones, sticks and acorns. The children learned that the squirrels love to eat acorns and hide them away so that they can eat them later in the winter; we found lots of buried acorns in the garden - sorry squirrels!

And then, while half the group help collect objects for the Big Draw, the other half used trowels (remembering the safety instructions I taught them last year) to dig up the old pea plants in their little veg bed. The plants went on the compost heap to be recycled in the garden. We all put our hands into the freshly dug soil to feel how it was drier on the top and damper underneath but was also loose like crumble mix. And the numerous worms that were unearthed during the process were all gently and kindly transported to the bush where rumour has it they were having a big worm party...

Finally, after making big shapes, small shapes and star shapes, the children exploded with an impressive "Acorns!" for their "word jump". Exit one group of happy, rosy-cheeked, energised children.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

From the outside looking in

Mena participating in the garden
Earlier in the year, we had a visit by an MSc student from Edinburgh called Mena Grossmann. Mena, as she describes below, used Transition Town Tooting as a case study to explore diversity within the Transition Town Movement for her MSc research project.

For us and the Transition Movement as a whole, engagement with academic research has to be 2-way, with both parties benefitting. We hope Mena's research will give us real insight into who we are reaching through our work in Tooting.

Mena will be publishing her dissertation after it has been marked, we can't wait! And will share it when we can.

If your Transition Initiative is interested in engaging with academic research, The Transition Network do have suggested guidelines to help negotiate the first steps of partnership between a Transition Town and a Researcher, these can be found here. There is also the Transition Research Network who focus on this area and provide a forum to link a researcher with an Initiative. However, we sort of made it up as we went along...

Over to Mena...

"Somebody told me that Tooting was like an onion, because it has many layers. During my 2-week stay in Tooting, undertaking interviews and participating in TTT's activities as part of my MSc dissertation on diversity and participation in the Transition Movement, I was able to have the incredible opportunity of unpeeling some of those layers.

Coming to TTT, and Tooting in general, as a complete stranger, my first days felt like when you're cutting an onion; eyes watering furiously and impaired vision. However, after a few fascinating days visiting the community garden, going along to a neighbourhood planning meeting and undertaking a couple of interviews, a map began to develop bit by bit in my mind as I started to develop an understanding of the functioning of TTT, of the multitude of community groups working in the area and of the social networks and connections that link them.

Monday, 5 October 2015

From today: the new 5p tax will be charged for single-use plastic shopping bags

The long-debated tax of 5 pence per single-use plastic bag becomes law from the 5th October in England, and applies to 'free' bags from larger shops and chains (enterprises employing more than 250 people). Smaller shops can also charge if they wish. The sums charged go into pots for there are some complex processes, rules, exceptions (and fines for non-compliance) behind the scenes. 
Read the government's guidance for retailers here.

So what? 
In 2013 we used 8 billion of these 'free' bags per year, just from UK supermarkets....with year-on-year totals growing.
Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have already implemented this tax - the latest figures show that in Wales, the use of these short-life bags nationally has been reduced by 79% over 4 years.

The majority of these bags are instant waste, with an enormous cumulative impact in terms of costs of dealing with household and business rubbish, and blight from windswept litter all around us. 
Read TTT's earlier 2010 post about global plastic pollution here
They are derived from oil, a non-renewable resource. (There are other options such as bidoegradeable cornstarch).

Of course there is a carbon saving if bag use is reduced - savings in terms of materials used to make them, and their distribution, and the carbon costs of disposing of them. 
'Reduce' has much more positive impact than 're-use' or 'recycle' and is much more within our own control.

What does this mean for me?
There's a new article - click here - which summarises exactly that.

Which shopping bag to use today?
There's an easy option that can suit all pockets: 
use a textile 'bag for life'. 
Made of jute or cotton, they are recyclable when they finally pack up - cut up and composted, or used as mulch.

For a good short article about re-usable bags, click here.

Cloth bags also have a carbon cost in their own production and distribution; some long-life shopping bags are made of plastic textiles.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Urban Heat 2nd October '15: our third Tooting workshop on community-led approaches to urban heatwaves

Today we hosted the third workshop in the Urban Heat research project. This is an 18-month research process into community-led responses to urban heatwaves, with a particular focus on the local impact on vulnerable people. The research is led by the Policy Studies Institute at the University of Westminster, with funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
For the details of the wider project, please see our short posts on the two previous workshops in June and July. TTT has been inviting and convening local groups to take part, and hosting the events.

Today's workshops saw diverse Tooting community organisations meet a group representing the strategic and borough-wide institutions who have a mandate to act on heatwaves alongside many other priorites.
This was not intended to be adversarial...! The purpose was to bring together key players who respond at different local and city 'levels' to heatwaves, all in the interest of local people's wellbeing and health.

The community groups summed up their ideas and proposals identified so far, and these were grouped into three themes:
  • Bridging and making connections
  • Communications and awareness
  • Resources and infrastucture
Everyone present discussed each theme in detail - so we can all understand, anticipate and respond to the impact of urban heatwaves, together. There was a lot to talk about!
The research team will be summing up points made and actions proposed. This is 'action research' - it is up to us all locally to decide which of these ideas are most valuable and can be put into practice, while the researchers continue with the next steps of the project.
We'll keep you informed.

Represented today were: Age UK (Wandsworth), Be Enriched, Emergency Planning at St George's Hospital Trust, Furzedown Low Carbon Zone, Housing Strategy & Development at London Borough of Wandsworth, Neighbourhood Network SW17, Public Health at London Borough of Wandsworth, Thinking Works and Transition Town Tooting. Thank you all!