Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Budleigh's 'green shoots'?

Some people have suggested that Budleigh's first ever science festival is a case of jumping on the global warming bandwagon.

But could it be simply that Budleigh is following a 'green' trend set by many of its neighbouring towns?
Picture credit: Environmental protection agency

In 2006 Totnes in Devon became the first English town to officially align itself with the 'Transition' movement.

Followers of the movement base their thinking on the concept of 'peak oil', whereby they assume that the world has reached the point in time of maximum rate of global petroleum extraction, and that we now live in a period where the rate of production has entered terminal decline. Unhappily, they point out, the world is also facing the problem of climate change caused by carbon pollution of the atmosphere.

One answer, they believe, is for communities to develop in a spirit of self-sufficiency a coordinated range of projects across all their areas of life that "strives to rebuild the resilience we've lost as a result of cheap oil and reduce the community's carbon emissions drastically." http://www.transitiontowns.org/

'Resilience' seems to be a keyword in transition thinking. I read, for example, that "A 'transition initiative' occurs when a community aims to rebuild the resilience that it has lost as a result of cheap oil, and to reduce drastically its carbon emissions," while a cheery message from the Exmouth Transition Town people hopes that we've had "a low carbon Christmas and resilient New Year."

It's hard for someone of the 60s generation not to think of all this as a resurgence of a sort of tougher version of hippy flower power. And you could go back even further in time by suggesting that it's a nostalgia for the good old days of 'make do and mend' and of wartime resilience.

Totnes, the hometown of Rob Hopkins whose work on permaculture inspired the 'Transition' concept, went so far in resilience and in its own form of self-sufficiency as to invent its own currency, the 'Totnes pound.'

Sidmouth, Exmouth, Seaton, Exeter... they all seem to have their own 'transition' websites.

Ottery seems to have especially strong links with the local churches where its 'green' shoots are sprouting.
Picture: The parish church of St Mary in Ottery St Mary, where meetings to develop the town's 'sustainability' have been held. See http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/conf2009.htm

And Budleigh? Well, the idea was floated a year or so ago, with a meeting arranged in July 2008, but it doesn't seem to have come to anything.

A recent visitor to Budleigh whose family moved here in the 1980s would be overjoyed to see the town taking steps to emphasise its environmental awareness.

Jeremy Light, former biological coordinator at the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth in Mid-Wales from 1976 to 1993, was then involved with Centre Terre Vivante, an ecological research and education initiative located in Mens, S.E. France.
Terre Vivante hosts courses on regenerative gardening and farming, renewable energy, and ecological building http://www.terrevivante.org/

Recently Jeremy Light has been in contact with Transition Towns Totnes and is developing the movement in the French alpine village where he now lives. The British Antarctic Survey veteran, whose father Stanley lived in Vales Road, is a specialist in reed bed alternative sewerage systems and natural gardening, having published books on these subjects while based at Machynlleth.

"Transition Towns," he says, "are a radical new way of creating a better lifestyle that takes into account declining oil supplies, while putting the planet and all its people first".

But perhaps Budleigh Salterton already has its environmental champion in the excellent Otter Valley Association http://www.ova.org.uk/
OVA organise walks, talks and other events among other activities, and has a membership of over 1,100 according to its website.

Picture: The Otter estuary, a wildlife haven on our doorstep
Yet OVA also has an interest in climate change.

"Our climate is changing. High summer temperatures are becoming more frequent and very cold winters are becoming less frequent," I read with mixed feelings considering that 2009/10 has brought us one of the coldest winters that Budleigh has experienced in recent years.

And OVA goes on to make a promise. "Where appropriate, we will help to create flexibility and opportunities for habitats and species in the face of climate change."

It surely goes without saying that the species should include the most important, human, variety.


  1. How timely your post on Transition Towns is today. We just had our first T-Town meeting in Brevard, NC, USA this week. Introduced at Green Drinks gathering that I help to organize. Thanks for Nick Friedman's initiative about introducing this initiative. We had about 40 people turn out. Brevard is a small mountain town where kids still walk to school and I rarely lock my door. Let's hope the synergy continues and the movement materializes into an improved quality of life. First action task: Local realtor offered space for a community vegetable garden this Spring/Summer. Thanks to Mike Carrick for green thinking and sharing this land. THANKS, Michael Downes, for sharing this info on this blog spot. Your moss friend, Mossin' Annie

  2. Hi Annie
    A few more 'green' pieces to come soon.