On Tuesday 13th September I attended a webinar to introduce Power Allotments Devon along with colleagues from TECs.
This Devon wide project hopes to encourage local communities to build, own and benefit from their own renewable energy power station projects across Devon, creating spaces for biodiversity net gain and generating an income for local people.
To find out more you can visit the Power Allotments Devon website, here you will find a toolkit which includes a handbook, interactive map, and submission form which enables you to identify and submit possible sites.
I have just completed a summer placement with ACT and my experience has filled me with hope, writes Finlay Heppell. It was a great learning opportunity for me and I met many knowledgeable and passionate people who all share the same goal of tackling the climate crisis in Teignbridge.
I contacted ACT after finding the website while searching for placement opportunities that would be relevant to my studies as a geography student at Bournemouth University. I got involved with both the Carbon Cutters and Wildlife Warden schemes ACT runs, as well as learning about how energy is used in Teignbridge and the psychology behind influencing/attracting people.
I attended several Carbon Cutter training sessions where I realised there is still a lot I do not know about carbon emissions and the climate emergency. One of the new things I learnt was the idea of reducing carbon emissions in an intelligent manner. A great tool that ACT has is a carbon footprint tracker that allows you to accurately work out your carbon footprint and explains how you can reduce it in a smart way. Using numbers is such a great way of helping people understand how to reduce their carbon emissions as numbers are often treated as fact.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience with the Carbon Cutter scheme as I learnt so much new information and it allowed me to get a bigger picture of what people/groups in Teignbridge district are doing to try and reduce carbon. As a young person myself it is really encouraging to know that lots is already happening in my local area
Carbon Cutters was set up to help address the climate emergency. The other scheme I participated in, Wildlife Wardens, focuses on the ecological emergency through helping nature. I learnt many practical skills, such as identifying types of plants and the impact that our carbon emissions are having on the environment in Teignbridge. My first experience of this was at a Wildlife Warden training session on Orley Common with the Devon Biodiversity Record Centre (DBRC). This session consisted of teaching Wildlife Wardens how to fill out a County Wildlife Site survey. This was a great introduction to how site surveying is done as I was around people who were very knowledgeable with regards to identifying plants.
On top of this training session, I attended an actual survey of a meadow in Trusham. This visit allowed me to assess how much of what I learnt had stuck, but more importantly, reinforced what I had learnt. I have learnt so many new things from these two sessions.
The other side of my experience with the Wildlife Warden scheme was focused more on working directly with wardens and helping out with their projects. This included researching information for an article on the health of the river Teign, clearing a flowerbed and planting wildflowers in Newton Abbot, and assisting with a nature trail project in Kingsteignton.
Another aspect of ACT which taught me a lot was learning about the psychology involved in working with the public. The Public Engagement group within ACT particularly considers this. It was an area I was interested in because I don’t have much of a psychology background, so a lot of the information was completely new.
The focus of this subject was to listen, understand, engage, and take action. The complexity of this topic was interesting as many things have to be considered when approaching people. The key takeaway for me was that evoking emotions in people is an essential part of enabling them to make changes, perhaps by overturning their cognitive biases. In this instance it would be changes related to cutting carbon.
The last part of my learning with ACT was the IT aspect, which included the gathering of data and creation of maps for the ACT website. This area was interesting as it tied in with a module that I had just finished at university. The module was about using Geographic Information Software (GIS) to gather data and create maps from it. Being involved with this side of ACT allowed me to see the real-world applications of what I had been learning at university.
As a young person it fills me with hope knowing that the district I live in has such a large and organised group tackling the climate crisis. The schemes cover a wide variety of problems, from ecological issues with the Wildlife Wardens, to how much carbon is being used through the Carbon Cutters scheme. On top of this, each scheme has further projects within it. This allows ACT to try and address multiple and diverse issues surrounding the climate crisis.
ACT is independent of Teignbridge District Council while still working closely with them and providing advice. The independence is important as it allows for much more freedom, and makes it easier to collaborate with many other smaller groups in the area.
In conclusion, my time with ACT was valuable both for what I learned and the people I met. I return to university feeling more hopeful about what we can all do to take action on the climate and ecological emergencies, especially if the ACT model is replicated throughout the country.
On Wednesday 20th July our water stopped running: after providing our farm with running water for 36 years our well was dry. For us this was serious and scary. We were already being careful with our water use as it has been dry since the New Year. But then, suddenly, the only source of water for our home, our garden, our livestock buildings and half of our fields has run out.
We farm on the drier, eastern edge of Dartmoor, not far from the beautiful River Teign. We keep around 30 cattle and 20 sheep who graze our flower-rich pastures, making sure they are full of insects, spiders and birds. We have a garden full of vegetables and fruit that feed us right through the year. We farm with nature, not against it; we don’t use fossil-fuel based fertilisers or sprays and we heat our house using wood cut from our hedges when we ‘lay’ them. We are trying hard to minimise our effect on the planet – but our well is dry.
For many years we have known that our climate is changing and becoming more erratic, so six years ago we spent £2,000 on reserve water tanks, which we fill up with winter and springtime water. But we only have 10,000 litres, so we had to act fast!
The first thing we had to do was to move our cattle to the far side of the farm, where they can drink from the brook, or to our furthest fields, where there are mains water troughs. The cattle have now eaten the remaining dried-up grass in our far fields and we are feeding them our winter hay. It is going to be a long hot start to the winter! Thank goodness we have small fields and big bushy hedges that give our animals some shade throughout the day!
In the garden, anything that isn’t essential has been left to its own devices. In the house we minimise water use, but every evening we soak our tired bodies in a few inches of (shared) hot water. When we have finished, I add some eco-detergent and the dirty washing for a bit of a scrub and a good soak. In the morning we drain the laundry on a clothes horse propped across the bath before putting it out on the washing line to drip-dry. The rest of the bath water is used to flush the loo or water plants. Across the world millions of people live with very limited water, but many people in the UK turn on the tap and don’t even think about how it got there.
Why has our well dried up? We’ve only had 22cms of rain this year (less than 1 inches). In July we had less than 0.5cm. We’ve also had higher temperatures than we have ever experienced before. So climate change is definitely a big factor, but it is more complex than that. People use more water each day than they used to, and there are more people too! To satisfy the demand, water companies are extracting extra water from rivers and reservoirs. As a result, our natural underground water levels are falling, and in the summer the water is below well-level.
So, what next? It will probably be months before our well runs again, and we are fortunate that our neighbours have invited us to plumb into their supply until the situation improves. We have bought 250 metres of pipe to bring the water down to the farm and now we can start to be just a little less miserly with our water. So, we will get through, but this scorching summer has given us a lot of gruelling, extra work!