Bristol is striving to be the UK’s green capital, a low carbon city with a high quality of life; green open and social.
by Paul Rainger
08 April 2013
From cardboard bicycles to self-healing concrete, here my latest Bristol Post column first published last week.
So would you like to buy a cardboard bicycle? I know what you’re thinking – April Fool’s Day was last Monday!
Surely no-one in their right mind would use cardboard as their ideal material for building a bicycle? Flimsy, flammable, collapsing, ruined by the slightest rain. Laugh at the idea, but that’s exactly what an Israeli inventor has done, creating a cheap bike out of cardboard that is strong, durable, waterproof and yes, even fireproof.
This is just one example of an explosion of technological innovations coming form a new wave of tomorrow’s young inventors, entrepreneurs and business people, driven by today’s environmental challenges.
We spend a lot of time in Bristol talking about the cars and bikes that travel on our roads, but what of the roads themselves? Could they be more environmentally friendly, such as current experiments using recycled plastics for road construction?
Or how about roads that also generate energy for us? One way might be to create power from the vibrations of the cars as they drive along, as a nightclub in London already does from the dancers on its dance floor. Others are working on specially toughened solar cells that can, form the driving surface itself, potentially turning a motorway into one long giant solar panel.
At the other extreme in the USA, inventors are developing invisible solar panels that can substitute for ordinary glass. Solar windows could transform Britain’s stock of old, inefficient homes and offices from energy-sucking liabilities into a major source of clean, renewable energy.
While for the last year, in Berlin, a four-member family has been living a prototype ‘surplus energy’ house. Fitted with the most advanced technologies, the home actually produces an energy surplus over the course of a year. Not only does it meet the energy needs of its occupiers, but it also stores extra energy that is used for charging their electric car, earning the home its German nickname, “My house – My filling station!”
Another building innovation which sounds more like science fiction is concrete that heals itself. Unlike a cardboard bicycle, nothing sounds more solid than concrete. But the tiniest of cracks, just a fraction of a millimetre, are enough for water to leak in, inevitably leading to structural damage and costly repairs. So Dutch researchers have developed a self-healing cement that stops the cracks from forming. They have ingeniously used the damaging water to their advantage. By adding a healing bacteria to the concrete, now the incoming water activates the bacteria causing them to produce limestone which seals the cracks.
So beware last week’s April Fool’s stories, some might just turn out be tomorrow’s eco-science fact!
Paul Rainger is director of Bristol’s BIG Green Week Festival in June.
by Paul Rainger
20 March 2013
Bristol is making a third bid to become European Green Capital in 2015 – an award given to a European city which can act as a ‘green’ role model to inspire other cities.
Bristol of course came second to Copenhagen last year and the city has a fantastic opportunity to win the award this year, with the support of our new Mayor, architect George Ferguson, who is firmly placing green issues at the heart of his vision for the city.
The bid team, which is being coordinated by Bristol Green Capital Partnership – a membership organisation for businesses committed to low carbon practices – is calling on businesses and individuals in the city-region to get behind the bid and pledge their support.
Winning the 2015 award will bring many benefits to Bristol, including attracting inward investment to the city and reinforcing the city’s reputation as the most sustainable in the UK. It will also give Bristol a platform from which to further promote environmental goods and services and explore opportunities for continuing to led the UK in low carbon jobs.
If the city wins the award, Bristol will stage an exciting programme of events that will showcase our creativity and sustainability, including of course a very special version of Bristol’s annual BIG Green Week festival in June.
You can back the bid and submit your own ideas for events and initiatives that you would like to see Bristol stage in 2015 by clicking here.
by Paul Rainger
14 March 2013
When the British Prime Minister no less says your Sustainable Development Masters “is a fantastic example of the sort of course we need to create sustainability-literate leaders of the future” then you know you must be onto a good thing.
So students looking to fast-track their career as a sustainability leader, couldn’t do much better than to join this unique, leading post-graduate programme established in 1996 by Forum for the Future.
Forum for the Future is of course the sustainability non-profit that works globally with business, government and others to inspire new thinking and develop practical solutions.
The Prime Minister backed Masters in Leadership for Sustainable Development is validated by Middlesex University, includes access to all their facilities, and is currently recruiting this year’s intake of Scholars to start in September. The next generation of sustainability leaders should apply here by 2nd April.
At the heart of Forum for the Future’s 10.5 month intensive programme is the link between learning about the concept and practice of sustainability and applying those ideas in the real world. Students take up work placements in a variety of sectors. They also get the opportunity to undertake two tailor-made modules on leadership development at the highly acclaimed Leadership Trust.
This unique Masters programme combines work-based learning with expert tuition, group learning and project work, reflective practice and skills development. Students graduate with up-to-date, real-world knowledge of sustainability solutions and the capacity to develop as the type of leader needed to make the world more sustainable.
2012-13 placement organisations included: Marks and Spencer, Unilever, Kingfisher, Committee on Climate Change, Triodos Bank, Good Energy, Friends of the Earth, Sainsburys, Town & Country Planning Association, Cooperative Bank, BskyB, Carillion, O2, Environment Agency, Islington Council, CAFOD, TUI Travel, Fairtrade Foundation, and Pret a Manger.
No wonder one recent graduate says “I do not think I have ever learnt so much, from so many extraordinary experiences, and people, in such a short space of time.”
See here for more details.
by Paul Rainger
19 December 2012
In this December’s column in The Post I present my ‘Christmas Carol’ for Bristol’s new City Mayor.
George Ferguson has been thrown in the deep end as Bristol’s first elected Mayor for a whole three weeks now. Let’s take a peek at some of what might be on his Christmas wish list for the city.
For sure these three weeks must feel like a baptism of fire, appointing a Cabinet, grappling with the Council’s budget cuts, and having to go cap in hand to the Government for the new powers and money they promised to give to our new City Mayor.
I bet he is already dreaming of his Christmas break… when all through the Tobacco Factory, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Although, in my experience, this could be down to being a bit too festive with the Bristol Beer Factory.
Anyway, the red trousers were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that David Cameron soon would be there. Please Father Cameron can you deliver for me, presents of new Mayoral powers under my Christmas tree.
First up I’d like a shiny new tram set to play with, to help people get around town. So please be so kind as to allow me to use the BRT funding for a light rail network instead of those buses.
I’ve promised to make Bristol a happier, healthier city. To do that I want to encourage community spirit and local enterprise. The power for City Hall to have local control and flexibility over local business rates would help me to encourage new business start-ups.
Powers over planning and the temporary ‘pop-up’ use of empty shops and derelict land would help local community groups and artists to transform the city. Bristol is already a leader in this area, but we could do so much more if we were freed from nationally imposed limits.
Powers to allow our city neighbourhoods to easily and regularly reclaim road space for community use. Not just a city centre for families on a Sunday, as many of our European Cities already do, but also to do much, much more of the community street parties and children’s playing out sessions that we already excel at right across our city.
Finally, I know that gift vouchers are an easy option, and you did promise an extra £1bn of funding to all your new City Mayors, but I turned out your only one. So let’s do a deal, and we’ll split the cash. Half can go back to Government and half can be spent in Bristol.
PS: My good friend ‘Labour’ has gone home in a sulk and is refusing to play with me. Can you work some Christmas magic to cheer him up too? Thanks.
So up over Bristol the red trousers they flew, with the sleigh full of new powers, and St. Nicholas too. And I heard George exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”
by Paul Rainger
15 November 2012
There is no serious discussion of how we might instead ‘develop’ in a steady state or low growth economy. Of course that’s mainly because traditional economists don’t have a clue how that might work. But at least here in Bristol ordinary people have done something about it for themselves and set up our own Bristol Pound local currency.
Economics it would seem has become too important to be left to economists!
Across four events all taking place in At-Bristol, the Festival of Economics will confront the economists with their critics, bringing together academic economists, practitioners of economics, and challengers from both inside and outside the subject.
First up at 6pm on Friday 23th is “The Future of Capitalism” panel debate on the nature of the economic system itself. No holds barred, going straight for the jugular.
Saturday 24th continues with three more sessions, starting at 11.30am with “People, Places and Poverty” looking at how an individual person’s characteristics and their social context combine to shape their economic opportunities, and why ‘poverty traps’ have postcodes?
“What Next for Britain’s Economy?” will be hotly debated at 2pm with answers on a postcard to George Osborne no doubt, before “Economics in Crisis” at 4.30pm turns the spotlight on the subject of economics itself. Your chance to marvel as economists try to debate honestly the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the subject, and respond to some of the challenges from critics like me who think economics should be treated with the same general scepticism as astrology.
Either way, a stellar line up of speakers are putting their heads above the parapet, including -
- David Smith, Economics Editor at The Sunday Times
Rachel Lomax, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England 2003-2008
Larry Elliott, Economics Editor at The Guardian
Diane Coyle, author of ‘The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters’ and who is the Guest Programmer of this Festival
John Kay, founding Director of the Said Business School, Oxford University
Heather Stewart, Economics Editor at The Observer
Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies
Vicky Pryce, Joint Head of the UK Government Economic Service, 2007-2010
Andrew Sentance, member of Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee 2006-2011
Carol Propper, Professor of the Economics of Public Policy at the University of Bristol
Tickets for each event are £7.00 (full) / £5.00 (concessions) or you can buy a ‘golden’ ticket for all four events at £20.00 / £18.00. Full booking and event details can be found here.
by Paul Rainger
04 October 2012
The event was organised by Forum for the Future, with support from the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute, and the Ordnance Survey. It is part of Forum’s Wired for Change series, designed to inspire and engage the digital communities in the global problems we face.
by Helen Burley
11 June 2012
Bristol’s BIG Green Week started on Saturday with a colourful market stretching from St Nick’s to the Harbourside. Chef, Arthur Potts Dawson gave an inspiring low energy cookery display, celebrating local ingredients and summer. It all kind of left you feeling pretty good about this whole green thing.
To simplify horribly, the gist was that given that we are now living in the Anthropocene – an age where man has determined conditions on Earth – we need to acknowledge our managerial role. The question is not how we live with nature, but how we manage the Earth’s systems – and there are big questions about how this done.
Hamilton picked a few geoengineering projects to illustrate his point. Faced with rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, scientists have come up with a number of creative ways in which we might try to manage (or geoengineer) the climate.
A number of these schemes have attracted the attention and the cash backing of some pretty big investors – including Bill Gates. They have also been seized on by former climate sceptics, who suggest that by engineering the climate, we can obviate the need to tackle climate change.
One advocate, the US astrophysicist, Lowell Wood, is quoted by Hamilton as saying:
“We’ve engineered every other environment we live in – why not the planet?”
Tar sands developer Murray Edwards is, perhaps for obvious reasons, another geoengineering fan.
Hamilton describes the geoengineering advocates as “Promethians” – after the character from Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mortals. Promethians like technology, they like speed, they like to get things done.
In opposition to this, Hamilton puts the Soterians, named after the Greek goddess of caution, Soteria.
And as Hamilton pointed out, we live in a world where speed, not caution, tends to win.
This is perhaps particularly true in the financial markets, where deals are done in nano-seconds – and markets do not wait while politicians – or indeed ordinary mortals – hesitate.
Just as we have allowed our markets to race ahead, unregulated, regardless of the costs, will we, as a global society, let the Promethians seize the opportunities offered by new technologies, spurred on by the chance to profit from these new planet management opportunities? And will the Soterians sit on the sidelines, warning of the environmental damage being done?
Or maybe we will recognise that we are ill-qualified as planetary managers – that our track record so far is pretty poor and that caution is perhaps wise. That while we may be poor masters, we have learnt a lot about the complex world we live in, including the fact that our actions trigger consequences we cannot control. And that just as at city level, different interests have to be balanced to create sustainability…
by Helen Burley
11 May 2012
With all the excitement in Bristol about BIG Green Week (have you booked your tickets yet?), Sustainable Bristol has been a bit slow with the news that Bristol has been shortlisted to be named the European Green Capital in 2014.
Bristol is the only UK city to make the shortlist, competing against the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and the German city of Frankfurt.
To reach the shortlist, Bristol was scored on 12 different areas, including local transport, nature and biodiversity, waste production and management and the local contribution to global climate change.
Bristolians are being encouraged to back the bid, which is being taken forward by Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol City Council, Bristol Water and Wessex Water.
Bristol Green Capital Partnership Manager Darren Hall said “Showing that we’ve got the people of Bristol behind us really could make all the difference in helping Bristol be named European Green Capital for 2014. We are really pleased that people outside of Bristol are supporting us too – it would be great for Bristol to win on behalf of the UK. We’d like as many people as possible to sign up to support the bid, and to ask all their friends to do so as well.”
To earn the title, Bristol has to present its vision, action plans and communication strategy to a jury on 8 June. The winner will be announced at an award ceremony in the current European Green Capital, Vitoria-Gastiez in Spain, on 29 June.
Next year Nantes in France will hold the Green Capital title
Of course, winning would be great news for Bristol – driving even more green action and making the city an even better place to live
by Paul Rainger
03 May 2012
A spectacular line-up of internationally renowned speakers and celebrities is aiming to attract visitors from around the country to Bristol’s BIG Green Week in June. Their mission to inspire the next generation of great green ideas through a fun-filled nine days of one hundred events.
Festival tickets are now available, along with the full programme for all the 9th to 17th June’s events at www.biggreenweek.com.
Highlights include Vivienne Westwood, Bill McKibben, Deborah Meaden, Caroline Lucas, Kevin McCloud, The Eden Project’s Tim Smit, Great British Menu’s Prue Leith, Comedian Nathan Caton, Jonathon Porritt and Scrapheap Challenge’s Robert Llewellyn compering the world electric bike championship.
Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, and chair of the festival said; “Big Green Week will be a giant mixing bowl of experts, innovators, and fresh ideas, finished off with good food, friends, and fun, to inspire change for the better. It’s easy to be pessimistic about Rio+20, its predecessors, the process, and the outcome, or lack there of. The trouble is, we can’t afford to fail. Life changing, planet saving ideas need inspiration.”
To launch the programme, some of Big Green Week’s key contributors have been sharing their inspirations:
“For me seeing the Earth from space for the first time was life changing. It’s the only home we have, and I realised that if we don’t take care of it, it won’t take care of us.
Sara Parker, Founder Director of Forum for the Future
“Seven years ago, I was a barrister in court defending a client in a case which had gone on for years. At one point I looked out of the window and realised that if I was defending the Earth, as a lawyer I wouldn’t have the tools of my trade to protect it.
Polly Higgins, Barrister, author and the brain behind the Ecocide trials
“Trekking in Nepal, seeing those huge mountains made me realise how insignificant my tiny life was. I found that incredibly liberating.
Eugenie Harvey, Founding Director of the 10:10 Campaign
The final festival programme and tickets follows hot on the heels of the announcement that Bristol is the only UK city in the final three bidding to be European Green Capital 2014. And now the city is aiming to become the ‘Edinburgh of green festivals’ with its first ever Big Green Week.
Green jobs are already big business in the Bristol region with about 13,600 people work in environmental technologies and services. Bristol is the world capital of the wildlife and environmental film industry, and the region is the biggest silicon design cluster anywhere outside of Silicon Valley, attracting over $1.25 billion in investment.
From Brunel to Banksy, Beryl Cook to Blackbeard, Bristol’s past and present is bursting with big names that have inspired millions. BIG Green Week aims to inspire the next generation of great green ideas. Festival goers can visit the BIG Green Week Facebook page and post stories or pictures of what inspires them for a chance to win a festival ‘Green Pass’ that gives discounted entry to many of the events.
by Helen Burley
02 March 2012
With less than 100 days to go until the start of BIG Green Week (9-17th June 2012), initial details of the programme have been revealed – and Green Passes, offering discounts throughout the festival, have gone on sale.
A Bristol trio of carnival musicians marked the launch of the Green Passes at Colston Hall, the headquarters for the nine day festival, which celebrates Bristol’s role as an innovative sustainable city, and includes a packed programme of events with speakers, art, culture and entertainment.
The Green Pass, priced £10, gives festival visitors advanced booking, up to 20% reductions on tickets, and discounts at a range of local cafes, restaurants, and hotels during BIG Green Week.
Latest events and speakers for BIG Green Week:
Sat 9th & Sun 10th June:
Bristol’s biggest market and electric bicycle extravaganza with outdoor events for the whole family in the centre of Bristol, including street art with the Bristol Biennial.
Mon 11th to Fri 15th June:
Wonders of the Planet – a chance to see some of David Attenborough’s greatest hits for free every day at the Watershed.
Sat 9th June:
Jonathon Porritt – Writer, broadcaster, former Chairman of the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Commission from 2000 to 2009, and former director of Friends of the Earth.
Clive Hamilton – Australian Professor of Public Ethics and writer on the issues of climate change politics, consumerism and overconsumption.
Mon 11th June:
Prue Leith – Restaurateur, caterer, TV cook, broadcaster and cookery writer. She promotes good, fair, clean food under the international Slow Food movement, and is a judge on the BBC TV’s ‘Great British Menu’.
Ed Mayo – Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, and former Chief Executive of the National Consumer Council from 2003 – 2009. Described by the Independent newspaper as “the most authoritative voice in the country speaking up for consumers”.
Tues 12th June:
Wed 13th June:
Kevin McCloud – British designer, writer and TV presenter of Channel 4’s ‘Grand Designs’. Kevin is also an ambassador for the World Life Fund for Nature, and leads the home energy refurbishment campaign the ‘Great British Refurb’.
Tim Smit – Chief Executive and co-founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall and famous for his work on the restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Thurs 14th June:
Andrew Simms – Founder of the New Economics Foundation’s Climate Change Programme, and NEF’s Policy Director until 2010.
Polly Higgins – Barrister, author and creator of new laws to protect the Earth. Polly has proposed that ‘Ecocide’ should sit alongside Genocide as an international crime. She was named ‘The Planet’s Lawyer’ by the 2010 Performance Awards.
Maria Adebowale – Founder and Director of Capacity Global, and author of numerous articles on environmental justice, equality and public participation.
Fri 15th June:
Fiona Reynolds – Director General of the National Trust, and former director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England.
Caroline Lucas MP – Leader of the UK Green Party, as well as its first MP representing Brighton Pavilion. Former MEP from 1999 until 2010, Caroline is a member of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee.
Fri 15th & Sat 16th June:
Two evenings of comedy at Colston Hall curated by Bristol’s Comedy Box.
Sat 16th & Sun 17th June:
A family fun weekend on Bristol’s harbourside with the Festival of Nature, Europe’s largest free natural history festival.