Archive for January, 2010

Transition living – Leaf Curd

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This month’s Transition Living event saw 14 people come along to learn how to make high protein and nutritious curd from wild edible leaves and grass.

Unfortunately due to the weather and the large amount of snow on the ground no grass could be collected, so we had to make do with half a dozen cabbages instead.

Everyone got immediately stuck in – one group shredding the leaves, one group liquidising them and another group sieving out the pulp using a pillow case.

shredding, juicing and sieving the cabbages

 After sieving we ended up with several litres of juice which was then brought to the boil for several minutes.  The curd precipitates out of the water and is seen floating on the top, but also stuck to the sides and bottom of the pan.  After the liquid has cooled a little it is then sieved through a fine sieve (ideally silk) and what remains is the leaf concentrate or curd.

the leaf curd

This is a very high quality protein – as good as meat – and can also be made from regular grass or any wild edible leaf.  Amazing!

Our next step was to mix the curd with egg, breadcrumbs and herbs to make veggy meatballs which we then cooked and ate.  Delicious!

For more on our Tansition Living events, see our current spring 2010 programme here: http://www.transition-south-lakes.org.uk/events/Transitiontraining.pdf

COP 15: ‘System change not climate change’

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

‘System change not climate change’ is the banner of the climate action coalition that united in Copenhagen to push for world leaders to make far reaching decisions about tackling climate change and to do so in a way that is fair to all citizens of the planet. Before I went to COP 15 I did not fully understand the issues of power at the centre of the climate change debate that led to this call for system change. Now, I am convinced that it is necessary to tackle climate change and the only possible approach if the solutions are to be as just and as equitable as they can be for all people, for other species and for the ecosystems that sustain us all.

At the Klimaforum solutions to climate change were prolific. Whether the issue was food, energy or transport, speakers were confident that there are answers that can deliver on the 2 degree limit in temperature rise, can do this quickly and can do it with known technologies. What is more they were clear that this could be done in ways that would support those who are currently most likely to suffer from the effects of climate change, the poor of the developing countries. It could also be done, it was claimed, in ways that would reverse the loss of bio-diversity in the oceans and forests.

A common theme of all these solutions was the restoring of power to people at a local level – to grow there own food and produce their own energy for example. These same proposals at at the heart of the Green Party policies in the UK supporting local businesses, the micro-generation of power, local credit unions for lending and saving and locally grown food.

Governments, on the other hand, think at a larger scale and are encouraged to do so by the corporate interests that have a stake in maintaining current systems for the production and distribution of food, power, money and other goods and services. Unfortunately, with the limited resources the world has to tackle climate change, decisions must be made to invest in one system or the other as the 2 approaches are often incompatible. For example, in the UK, a new supergrid to distribute electricity can either support big energy plants like nuclear and coal or renewables like wind and tide, but not both.

The governments of the developed nations are committed to the idea of carbon cap and trade, an approach to encouraging carbon reduction that allows old ways of doing business, especially in the developed countries, to continue to make money through an economic model of growth that is now totally discredited. Whether it is a pollutant such as carbon or resource depletion such as oil it is clear that unlimited economic growth is impossible on a finite world. The battle between this old view of how economics treats nature as an externality – a source of unlimited resources and a sink for unlimited waste, and the emerging views that understand economics as a subset of the environment that must take care of natural capital and live only from the renewable interest that this produces, were centre stage in the climate change talks.

And the old view dominated. Alternative solutions were ignored perhaps because they are too threatening. Their equitable nature would see power and wealth spread more evenly through each society and more evenly between countries around the world. This was too big a threat to the established power holders – nations in the developed and the ‘soon to be developed’ world and the global corporate bodies. No wonder China held out for a bigger slice of the cake if slicing up the remaining cake was the only game in town.

What is more disheartening is that, while the alternative approaches promoted by speakers at the Klimaforum can bring about effective reductions in carbon with known technologies, all the ‘business as usual’ models rely on unproven or yet to be invented technologies and legislative devises.

So what did I come away thinking were the good ideas?

First, carbon should be rebranded as a pollutant. We should name it as such and treat is as such and punish through the tax and fines system the polluters just as we do with other noxious substances.

Second, as Polly Higgins argued, the planet, which is currently treated as inert resources and so having no rights, (just like slaves in the nineteenth century), should be treated as a living being and it’s rights protected by international law. As human rights can currently be defended in international courts so should planetary rights.

Third, there is another way. The Klimaforum declaration makes clear demands for a just approach to tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty. They are:

Leave the fossil fuels in the ground. Convincing arguments were presented that indicted we could transfer to renewable energy supply within 30 years with known technology.
for the developed world to pay the developing world to tackle climate change. We having unknowingly benefitted from industrial development at the expense of the rest of the world – a fact that some call our ‘climate debt’. Putting this to rights is the just and practical thing to do.
An immediate ban on deforestation of primary forests. It’s obvious but not happening nearly fast enough. Perhaps arrangements like those between Guyana and Norway can tackle this and the point above at the same time.
Question market oriented and technology centred solutions. They can, at best, only help and may not be the right approach. Place emphasis on local communities building resilience with small scale and known technologies. For example, there is good evidence that we can feed the world through small scale, organic farms producing less meat (a major source of greenhouse gases) even if the population goes up to 9 billion and without bringing any more land into cultivation.
Introduce an equitable tax on carbon emissions. This is also obvious and simple but hard for world leaders to agree on what would be ‘equitable’. they need to make hard decisions!

Question the current capitalist model. Lastly,the coalition says it is not necessarily against capitalism – no one has an alternative to offer as yet. However, whether it is a pollutant such as carbon or resource depletion such as oil it is clear that unlimited economic growth is impossible on a finite world. The battle between this old view of how economics treats nature as an externality – a source of unlimited resources and a sink for unlimited waste, and the emerging views that understand economics as a subset of the environment that must take care of the ‘natural capital’ and live only from the renewable interest that this produces, is fully engaged. The current version of capitalism that is globalising fast is discredited. As Climate Justice Now argue, there are 2 sets of commons. Firstly there are those that are physically limited such as land, air, soil. They must be defended and enhanced. The second are the commons of our creative efforts of invention, the arts, literature, ideas and knowledge. These are potentially limitless, can provide for rewarding and happy lives and support a steady or slowly growing economy.

Lets stop talking about sustainability and act with responsibility and creativity.