Welsh Green Dragon

Windfarms get go ahead from locals in the valleys by Chris Halpin

So it seems the people in the valleys of the Cynon, Rhondda, Afan and Neath valleys are Y.I.M.B.Y’s?

The not in my back yarders must be a little miffed as it seems this time they are in the minority, after an independent survey has revealed that only 1 in 10 people were against wind farms being developed.

The survey was carried out by BMG Research on behalf of Nuon Renewables who are planning to construct wind turbines near Pen-y-Cymoedd.

All the stats can be found in the Western Mail’s online article from last week but the most interesting is that 73% of people are in favour of more wind energy but with 63% percent fully backing wind farms. What does this mean exactly? Whats the difference? A bit dubious that one.

It’s all certainly at odds with last months news in the South Wales Argus that residents were not consulted about Tesco’s plans to erect two turbines at their store in Newport. Check out the comments on the article, it certainly ruffled a few feathers.

Regardless of that case, could the acceptance of the more isolated valley communities mean that public feeling towards wind turbines is changing, or are people just indifferent? What could be the reason behind it? Maybe its internet based campaigns which have cast this renewable energy source in a more favourable light? Plus if big companies and brands are beginning to back the use of wind and appear sustainable, then psychologically people may think, ‘Well if its good enough for them then its good enough for us’.

Some of my colleagues studying the Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism ventured north to gauge public opinion in Aberdare for themselves.

I think it would be much easier for people to stomach if the wind farms became community projects or co-operatives. When fuel prices start to rocket perhaps more wind farm co-operative projects like the West Mill Farm in Oxfordshire formed in 2006 or the Baywind project in Cumbria which goes back to 1996, will become more commonplace.

It certainly is important to dispel some of the myths that surround wind turbines, with regard to noise and also the public fearing the safety of birds – why would the RSPB back wind farms if that were the case? I could not comment on the noise as I am yet to get up close and personal with a wind turbine, although it is definitely on my list of things to do (that makes me sound a little bit like a train spotter!). Its all about personal opinion, and the press seem to be filling many column inches with arguments for and against our move as a nation to utilises the renewable power of the wind.


Welsh Blue Dragon to promote hope of Copenhagen resolution by Chris Halpin

It was the perfect photo call; 30 primary school children, climate change campaigners and a 30 ft long chinese style monster. Dai the blue dragon is embarking on an international journey of over 1000 miles as he heads for the Copenhagen climate change summit to represent the environmental wishes of the people of Wales.

Hopes are running high for a politically binding treaty being signed at the two-week summit which begins on the December 7. There has been much speculation concerning whether or not it will be a political fudge, but with the news that President Obama will be now be in attendance, and China seemingly on board, a deal may not be as far away as once seemed.

On a rather blustery Wednesday lunchtime, campaigners from the Stop Climate Chaos Cymru coalition presented Dai for the first time on the slate steps of the National Assembly. All this in the hope that Assembly Members would come outside to show their support and add a travel label to Dai’s torso which will carry their messages on his gruelling journey to Denmark.

Having started in Rhayader in Powys where he was created by Russell Kirk from the CARAD community group, Dai will be stopping off at ‘The Wave‘ demonstration in London on December 5, before heading over sea and land in time for the summit.

The Stop Climate Chaos Cymru coalition is made up of representatives from RSPB Cymru, WWF Cymru, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam Cymru, Christian Aid, Cafod, Sustrans and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. They are all expecting a global deal in reducing carbon emissions that threaten our climate. In order to prevent a rise in global temperature of two degrees centigrade, developed nations must commit to at least a 40 per cent reduction of emissions by 2020. Wales has already committed itself to this target, but the Stop Climate Chaos coalition are lobbying the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that other nations follow suit.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To set the agenda, Julian Rosser who is chair of the Stop Climate Chaos Cymru group, voiced the coalition’s wish list for Environment Minister Jane Davidson to bear in mind on her trip to Copenhagen. The minister then countered his statement with that of her own.

Cerith Jones

Accompanying the minister to Copenhagen will be 16-year-old Cerith Rhys Jones from Cwmgors, north of Swansea. He has been the Welsh Assembly’s Climate Change Champion  since January and attends events and visits schools as a ‘green ambassador’. He told me how important it is for young people to realise that they too have a voice and can do their bit to combat climate change.

Julian Rosser

He’ll be blogging his way through the summit day by day to keep us informed on how Wales’ voice will be heard on the International Stage, which you can check out here.

When I was down at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, I interviewed Cerith and Julian for the WGD podcast.

With everything still to play for, the next few weeks will see thousands of people descend upon London alongside Dai the dragon to show their support to act on climate change. If you want to get involved, the Co-op has agreed to organise and subsidise transport from Cardiff to ‘The Wave’ on Saturday December 5.

People can book online using a code from Oxfam or the Co-op.


When you get the booking page it asks for The Co-op or Oxfam code – the code is OXFAM_TheWave.

What do you think will happen in Copenhagen? Do you think they’ll sign a treaty and come to an international consensus for the future? 

Whatever the outcome, people in Wales are still being encouraged to do their bit. Luned Jones from Oxfam Cymru says that people shouldn’t be afraid of climate change and everyone can take small steps to minimise their carbon footprint. From changing travel habits, not using the dishwasher or tumble dryer or simply making sure the TV isn’t left on standby, we can help the environment as well as saving ourselves a penny or two. She told me that people in Wales need to realise that their lazy habits are having devastating effects on people in other parts of the world.

What will come of the Copenhagen summit remains to be seen, but there are clearly plenty of people in Wales who are passionate that the forthcoming negotiations will be a success.

Environment Minister calls for fundamental lifestyle change by tanyamercer
November 27, 2009, 9:35 am
Filed under: Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Future Thinking

The Environment Minister has said people in Wales must make a fundamental lifestyle change to tackle climate problems.

Jane Davidson says Wales is not doing enough towards sustainability. Evidence from scientists and economists shows taking action now will cost us less than taking action in the future.

Talking at the recent Welsh Green Heroes event, the Assembly Mininster told me that everyone needs to think about their way of life to ensure they are as energy efficient as possible.

Listen to the full interview here.

First ever Welsh Green List by tanyamercer
November 24, 2009, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Future Thinking

An exhibition showcasing Wales’ green heroes is currently travelling across the country.

The Welsh Green List celebrates people who are working towards sustainability across the country. It’s the first of its kind, and organisers hope it will inspire others to take action against climate change. 

There are 52 green heroes on the list – one for each week of the year.  And all of them have been judged as a ‘champion’ who deserves recognition for tackling sustainability and climate change.  The idea is to celebrate the work of environmentally-minded people in communities across Wales, and then to inspire and motivate others to follow their example.

The list profiles all sorts of people, including school children, business people, community workers, teachers and musicians.  There are also some well-known names, including the Environment Minister Jane Davidson and Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales.

At the launch event I spoke to organiser Helen Nelson, executive director of Cynnal Cymru Sustain Wales, to find out more about this unique award.

The list comes from a nationwide hunt, which started back in the early summer.  People across Wales were asked to think of green champions in their own communities and nominate them to feature in the Green List. The nominations were then short-listed by a panel of representatives from the business, media, voluntary and sustainable development sectors. 

The judging criteria centres on sustainability and people who are ‘building a healthy, happy and fair society’. So the chosen green heroes are not just stereotypical environmentalists.  They are ordinary people, from any background, making a difference to their communities.

Judges told me the idea is to show that green issues aren’t just something you read about in the paper or watch on TV.  They’re about real people, real lives and making Wales a better place.

To help promote the list, Cynnal Cymru has launched a new film and photographic exhibition profiling some of the green champions.  It shows what different people are doing in their quest for sustainability.  

The exhibition will tour across Wales over the next six months. It has now opened at Bridgend. It will then move on to Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda in December and January.

The people on this list are quite extraordinary.  Some have dedicated their whole existence to sustainable living. And, without doubt, the idea behind the list is well considered.  But there continues to be a denial among many people across Wales as to the need to change our lives to be more sustainable. I hope the exhibition will prove very popular and a great success in inspiring people to ‘do their bit’ for the environment.

But the cynic in me worries that even if people visit the exhibition, their admiration and good intentions will quickly turn down the normal road to denial and a reluctance to give up the luxuries and simplicity of their current lives to save the world. 

I hope I’m wrong.
To find out more information on the exhibition and to read profiles of the Welsh Green heroes, visit the Cynnal Cymru Sustain Wales website.

Eating our way to sustainability. by Chris Halpin

How can we be more sustainable through going shopping? Head down to your local farmers market apparently – I braved some blustery conditions over the weekend down at Riverside Farmer’s market in Cardiff and this is what one shopper had to say about the experience.

Eating more locally grown produce and reducing food waste were just two of the things spoken of at a debate that I went along to as part of Cardiff University’s sustainability week.

In a question time styled debate, a panel including Environment Minister Jane Davidson,  Dr Pam Robinson, School of Social Sciences (who knows her stuff about the supermarkets),  and Professor Kevin Morgan (of an Urban and Regional governance background), fielded questions from a fully charged audience of academics and students.

The most enigmatic of the bunch was Steve Garrett, who is the founder of the Riverside and Roath Farmers markets. Agriculture, farming and food production is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, and with populations set to rise food shortages will become a huge issue.

A big question is, how can you ensure a level playing field when supermarkets have economies of scale on their side to drive down prices and squeeze a farmer’s profit margins ever lower? Remember the dairy price fixing allegations of the ‘big four’ by the Office of Fair Trading in 2008? Even then the OFT got its fingers burnt with claims of defamation, so the supermarkets certainly have some legal clout behind them.

It’s inevitably about cultural change; how can people be persuaded it’s wrong to eat strawberries in December after accruing thousands of air miles to get to the fruit aisle?

There are some good reasons why people should make a farmer’s market a higher priority for their weekly shop.

There is a general misconception that farmers markets are for the bourgeoisie, and although there were stalls with specialist cheese’s and olives at riverside, you could still get all the staples. Also people fear that farmers markets just aren’t as cheap as the supermarkets, although that wasn’t according to the people i asked.

With pros there usually always come a few cons though.

So there are clearly things that a farmers market can’t do that the supermarkets can. Perhaps the answer is a mixture of the two, and this is something that was suggested at the debate.

Anyway back to the point, what are the three key things people need to do eat more sustainably?

  1. Eat less meat
  2. Eat locally grown seasonal food
  3. Throw less food away

Sounds simple. However, we’re struggling to get to grips with the thought of having to pay for plastic bags here in Wales, so the Welsh Assembly need to come up with something good to get people away from the supermarkets and out buying more locally produced food. Maybe they could even teach us how to grow our own!

Can shock tactics stem climate change apathy? by Chris Halpin

In a lecture last week our guest speaker did an on the spot poll – who is worried about climate change? Out of 100 would be journalists, all intelligent and well read, a meagre dozen or so put up their hands. The lecturer Mark Brayne said people should be as scared about climate change as if there was a meteor on direct collision course with earth, splashed all over the front pages, everyday.

But it just doesn’t invoke that sense of urgency. Everyone plods along none the wiser. Only last month David Miliband trod on his brothers toes in exclamation we should all be afraid, very afraid.

So why is it that the general populace seem unbothered by this approaching catastrophe? Is it because you can’t see CO2? We of course need a massive reevaluation in lifestyle and our perception of economic growth and consumption. I reckon people just seem powerless to do anything, the scale of it being far too massive to comprehend. And I think in part thats also cause by the scare tactic campaigns which we are ever the more bombarded with. People disengage with doom and gloom and just think, well sod it, it’s too big for me alone to sort out so why should I give up my 4X4 and european city breaks via Easyjet. Someone else will sort it out.

Unfortunately, as I needn’t really have to tell you, this kind of bunker mentality is so unbelievably short-sighted and if it continues we’re on the road to ruin.

Fortunately todays Guardian environment blog has saved me masses of effort and has already been mulling over this chilling effect (perhaps a perverse way to put it) of climate ‘propaganda’, so I’m linking to it rather than replicating it entirely. Its loads better than this so I’d recommend giving it a read instead!

Plane stupid‘s latest campaign with Polar bears meeting a grizzly end falling from the sky is graphic, the message hits home, but in my opinion the extent of the propaganda really insults people’s intelligence. I’m not denying flying is disastrous on the environment, but the plight of the poor polar bear has been bastardised so much it doesn’t really mean much anymore. It’s pretty much a visual cliché – like that of the Panda in the 80’s. Yes it’s synonymous with environmental destruction, we get the message, but you don’t walk out of your front door everday and see a dead polar bear splattered on the pavement. Climate change needs contextualising into everyday life.

And then there’s bedtime story, part of the governments Act On CO2 awareness drive. First aired on a friday night sandwiched in between parts 1 and 2 of Coronation Street, it’s obvious who they are targeting here.

But does it work? Does Mum now sort her rubbish, cycle to work and grow her own veg so her little sprog will survive to live in future comfort. I suspect not – bet they’re both now in Tesco’s buying unethically and unsustainably sourced treats and turkey twizzlers with the gas guzzling monster waiting outside.

And this is the problem, I think until it really starts to hit people where it hurts most – their bank accounts / pockets, then the majority of us will continue to be the materialistic gluttons raping the earth of all that it has.

Or maybe I am now just scaremongering myself.

(What should be) A welcome short term solution… by catherinegraham4

It was honestly quite disheartening to hear Jan Cliff, founder and director of Sundance Renewables, talk despondently about her struggle to launch biofuels in Wales. A not-for-profit social enterprise, aiming to increase welsh involvement in renewable energy systems, continues its hard work to develop biodiesel and to see it succeed as a legitimate option for running vehicles. Sundance Renewables is Wales’ premier biodiesel producer and has achieved a great deal since starting out but this, apparently, is still not enough.

Their mission is counter balanced mainly by the problem of finding a platform on which to market and distribute the product. Jan explained how the political side is also a large boulder blocking the sun and that the ignorance and disinterest on the legal side is clear: “Some politicians do not even have a clue that vegetable oil can be used for biodiesel.”

Jan emphasised how this issue of renewable fuels should have been attacked over the last 30 years yet it has just not been confronted in the right way. Besides the legalities, the battle lies in getting communities on side: people are embarrassed of filling up with biodiesel as they see it as second rate in some way. How has it developed this bad name? Can we blame the media for this?

Also, people in general do not even consider the issue of biodiesel because we have enough petrol right now to allow us to plod along as we are. There is a worry that until somebody actually stands up and announces that petrol has officially run out, the general public will be content with the current situation.

Petrol and diesel are non renewable petroleum fuels. They are NOT going to last forever and biodiesel could really become an essential transport fuel in the future, even if it were just to provide a stop-gap. Perhaps people should really sit up and think about this. One day these biofuels will be essential and Sundance Renewables will be something of a gold mine. Why wait? As Jan so rightly puts it “the stone age did not come to an end because we ran out of stones. The petroleum age has to end before we run out of petrol.”

Contact Jan at jan@sundancerenewables.org.uk

View the website at www.sundancerenewables.org.uk