Sunday, May 29, 2011

So What Can I Do?

There are many ways in which you can join in the activities of Transition Town Tenterden.

Step 1: Get More Info

Read our blog at There are lots of links to other pages and Transition Initiatives there, and who knows, some of the ideas on those pages might just inspire you to do something similar in this town!

Step 2: Support The Local Economy - Shop Local

Take advantage of Tenterden's local shops and local farms and food producers who supply nearby shops and also sell from their own locations. 

Step 3: Grow Your Own Food

Even if you only have room for a small plant pot with basil or thyme in it, or a patio planter with a strawberry plant, that's a start. The group encourages you to start growing fresh fruit and veg at home. It's a deeply satisfying (and tasty) way to participate.

Step 4: Reduce/Re-think Your Energy Needs and Consumption

Whether replacing broken light bulbs or an inefficient boiler, make sure your new one is more energy efficient than the last. Actively monitor how much electricity you are using each time you switch a piece of equipment on with an OWL meter. The list of energy reducing things that can be done is long and I am sure you are well aware of them. Do one today! 

Step 5: Join the Transition Town Tenterden Group

If you would like to join us, that would be great - everyone is welcome. Come and share your enthusiasm and time, commit to as much or as little as you would like. We are in the process of deciding on a regular meeting date and venue - if you have a space available that you would like to offer that would be fantastic. It could be a hall, a living room, an office, or it could even be one of the local watering holes... hint hint!

Step 6: We Need Your Input

Transition communities focus their activities on all the key areas of life: food, energy, transport, health, heart and soul, economics and livelihoods, the arts to name but a few. We need to draw on the town's collective genius and use your ideas for developing key areas of focus and new ideas for community projects. Let us know what you have to say.

Step 7: Roll Up Your Sleeves

Over time we will need volunteers for projects, so if you are willing to donate a little of your time to help us, watch this space. As new projects crop up, we will be calling on our members to give up a few hours here and there. Keep your eyes peeled.

Step 8: Tell A Friend

One thing that has a tremendous impact is word-of-mouth. If you are excited by anything we do, let others know, and who knows...

Day 16

First, a little shameless self-promotion (well, Transition Tenterden promotion really, but...). I spoke with Dan Bloom at the KE a couple days ago. He has sadly moved on to pastures new (the Medway towns) but he called to let me know that a piece he wrote based on our interview will (should?) be appearing in this coming Thursday's KE. I am not sure if he managed to get hold of Justin Nelson for a quote or two, as of Friday he was still trying. But anyway folks, keep your eyes peeled on Thursday and hopefully the article will be there and that might get us a few more members.

Secondly, the ball keeps rolling on Tenterden Clean-up Day, several people are interested and I just need to have a meeting with everyone soon so we can get this thing (and the Transition group) started for sure. At the moment I feel a bit like a one-man army, having done most of the talking and other stuff myself and most of that online. But no matter. I am lucky in that I am a born optimist and I'm getting tenacious in my old(er) age, all the while maintaining that slightly rebellious activist streak I've had since the 80s when I read the New Internationalist and ordered Christmas presents from the Oxfam and CND gift catalogues and dyed my hair funny colours.

Night all. See you on the flipside.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Here's An Idea

I keep reading a lot of posts about the Tenterden Clean Up Campaign (or the Clean Up Tenterden Campaign, depending on the source) on the Tenterden Town Website Forum. People complaining about the litter problem, dog poo, and general vandalism and graffiti that pops up all over our town. And I agree, it is a problem. Trouble is, a few random people here and there cannot make much of a dent in it.

One of the fundamental behind Transition Initiatives is that besides the greening of the town, the whole process brings the community together by requiring community action for it to be effective. So, I'm just throwing out a suggestion here, but let me back up a little first.

This morning as I walked into town I was feeling a little down. I was walking through 'the Wood Way', aka Public Right Of Way AB36, well known to those who use it as the footpath that connects Abbott Way with Sandy Lane. Feeling a little under the weather, I was looking at the ground as I walked and noticed a ton of litter items in the grass verges and the stream and even directly in the footpath. There was even a broken stroller shoved into a bush. It just amazed me that people just shun any responsibility when it comes to trash, it's just someone else's problem.

So here's my suggestion, and it will not only help to make the town look better, rid us of litter, and teach people that trash (and recycling) is everybody's problem,  not just the council employees or the people who work for the recycling companies.

My suggestion is to have a Town-wide day of cleanup, where teams of people (adults and kids alike) go along all of our streets, alleys, footpaths and byways, picking up trash (using litter-pickers and rubber gloves of course, since we are all Health & Safety barmy in this country now) and then bringing it back to a central location, say, the recycling containers behind the Leisure Centre, where others will await their arrival to help sort it all, then that which can be recycled will be placed in the appropriate bin. It will be a great family event in which even the littlies can participate, and the sheer amount that will be gathered will probably send a huge message that will hopefully be an eye-opener to all and sundry and a timely reminder that we  all need to do our bit. It's not 'somebody else's problem', it is an issue that concerns us all.

I've always been a person who learns better by doing and I think I am not alone in this. As the great Early Childhood Educator Bev Bos once said, "If it hasn't been in the hands, it can't be in the head". Here's an opportunity to educate everyone. What do my other members think about this idea?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Transition Deal

Hey gang, guess what? Our friends over at Transition Deal gave us a nice mention on Tuesday. Here's the link:

You know what's funny? Apart from those 18 years I lived in the States, I've lived in Kent all my life. And I have never been to Deal. Hope to change that soon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Press Conflab

Had a cuppa with Dan Bloom of the Kentish Express this lunchtime. He just sat there and jotted down about two pages of shorthand while I bent his ear about transition, what it was, why I wanted to make it a reality and what it involved. He asked some well-informed questions (he'd obviously done his homework) and then took a couple of pictures of me standing next to a big old tree. I am glad I got the opportunity to talk to him because in a week he's being moved from the Tenterden beat to the Medway towns area, and we are not sure if he has a replacement yet. The nice thing about Dan, apart from being sickeningly young-looking (I swear he looks like a teenager, even though he's got to be in his twenties - good for you Dan, I hope you remain young-looking a long time) is that he holds these 'reporter's surgeries' once a month in the town where people can come and annoy talk to him. I asked him about that and he said that he wasn't sure if his replacement would do that, as it was largely his idea in the first place. So anyway folks, keep your eyes peeled for next weeks edition of the Kentish Express - you just might see me in it, which will be great, as it will give our cause a big boost!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Low Impact Woodland Home

A Low Impact Woodland Home

What Is Permaculture?

From Wikipedia, fount of all human wisdom:
Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies.
Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect and minimise work. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of the picture. Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, "wastes" become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions.
The first recorded modern practice of permaculture as a systematic method was by Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer in the 1960s, but the method was scientifically developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications.
The word permaculture is described by Mollison as a portmanteau of permanent agriculture, and permanent culture.
The intent is that, by training individuals in a core set of design principles, those individuals can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements — ones that reduce society's reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution that Mollison identified as fundamentally and systematically destroying Earth's ecosystems.
While originating as an agro-ecological design theory, permaculture has developed a large international following. This "permaculture community" continues to expand on the original ideas, integrating a range of ideas of alternative culture, through a network of publications, permaculture gardens, intentional communities, training programs, and internet forums. In this way, permaculture has become a form of architecture of nature and ecology as well as an informal institution of alternative social ideals.

YouTube - Southend in Transition - Life After Oil

The London Green Fair, June 4th & 5th 2011 - Regents Park

The London Green Fair, June 4th & 5th 2011 - Regents Park

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Starting Out

It's been an interesting week (well, five days, really) since I started our Facebook group. We are currently up to nine members, namely:

  • Myself, Jeff Hickmott
  • Laura Douglas
  • Carolyn Hickmott
  • Cllr. Christine Hickmott-Arnold, Deputy Mayor of Tenterden (aka Mum)
  • Christopher Hickmott-Arnold, aka Deputy Mayor's Escort
  • Sandi Bain (Kench Hill Centre)
  • Cllr. Justin Nelson
  • Andrew Peter Bennett
  • Stephen Wakeford from DealWithIt (Transition Deal)
And yes, you read that right. My Mum is now Deputy Mayor of this town, and local legal eagle Justin Nelson is a new councillor, which means we have strong connections with local government already. I spoke to Justin last night and he seems like a nice personable chap and look forward to setting up a meeting with him and hopefully some of the other members (once we get a few more) to set up a steering group and assign some responsibilities. In reading the Transition Initiatives Primer which is required reading (available as a PDF from - be warned, it's a long document!) we are going to have to create some separate 'arms' of the group in order to share some of the work. These are:

  1. Energy Group. This group will look into the local carbon footprint. Is there any data on it? Has it been researched? And how do we shrink it?
  2. Food Group. The Food Group aims to promote and support local food producers, and encourage more people to grow their own food, on an allotments, in back-gardens, or even in window boxes.
  3. Transport Group. The purpose of this group is to take actions, such as promoting cycling and car-share schemes, to enhance substantially the sustainability of transport in the area, increasing the use of sustainable approaches such as walking, cycling and public transport, and reducing the use of unsustainable approaches such as motorised vehicles.
  4. Heart & Soul Group. The Heart and Soul Group aims to be a place where we can be open about our thoughts and fears, feelings and aspirations about our future lives, and the Transition initiative in our town. It can be very shocking to find out about the likely effects of Climate Change and Peak Oil on our futures, and the fact that the timescale may be much shorter than previously thought. It is especially difficult when those around you do not understand the issues and dismiss your fears as far-fetched and unfounded. This can easily lead to feelings of despair and isolation. This group will exist in order to discuss these ideas in a supportive environment and offer solidarity within the group.
As more members join, there may be more sub-groups created within these groups as different issues present themselves.

I was at the Tenterden Town Council meeting last evening, where the new Mayor and Deputy mayor were elected. The new Mayor is usually a shoo-in, having been Deputy Mayor. But the new Deputy Mayor is occasionally subject to challenge and this was the case last night, with my Mum being challenged by Cllr. Crickmore-Porter. It went to a paper vote and the tally was 7-7, so the mayor gave his final casting vote and supported Mum. She will now be his deputy for 2 years and will then (most likely) become Mayor in 2013. At which point she will be the first Mayor of this town to live in a council house. Power to the people.

After the meeting I mingled with the assembled throng, including Justin as I mentioned before and various other councillors, and Dan Bloom, local reporter for the Kentish Express with whom I had a long conversation about the Transition Initiative (he'd picked up on my involvement from following the Tenterden Town Forum on the web), and many others. I am afraid I am talking about this stuff all the time because i am so fired up about it, and I hand my card to just about everybody. Just today when I went to apply for a job (yes, folks, my current one ends on the 28th, so it's crunch time) I started talking about Transition Tenterden to the lady who accepted my CV. I then went to AbbotPrint in The Fairings to ask about pricing on T-Shirt printing and ended up talking Transition. I then went to get lunch from Cinnamon and talked Transition to them as I ordered my sandwich. I tell you what, I am either going to get this town motivated to do something and join us or bore the pants off them. One way or the other I am getting the message out there.

Anyway folks, those are my thoughts on Day 6, so I'll catch you later.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Day One

For a long time now I've been into environmental causes. Anything Green, anything to do with animal welfare, vegetarian/veganism, recycling, composting, energy consumption, I'll listen. I'm also a big fan of music, photography, food, cooking, eating (!), media and the arts.

The other day I had a satori. That's a term that might be familiar to those of you who know what Zen is. For those of you that don't know, Zen is an offshoot of Buddhism wherein through deep levels of concentration one is able to reach a higher state of consciousness, supposedly, so that one is then able to answer certain deep and complex questions, such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Well, as a drummer in several failed rock bands, I knew that sound.  But a satori is similar to an epiphany in that it's a sudden blinding realization where many disparate elements come together in your mind in a way that makes you go "Whoa! That's what I should do!"

I had been reading recently about Transition towns, a term I'd only recently come across, and comparing it in my other blog The World Of Jeff! to Cameron's Big Society. As it turned out there some similarities, in that many communities involved in Transition seem to find that they come together in a more neighbourly fashion to help each other and with a somewhat kindred spirit. It's also similar because the government isn't spending a dime on it. (Oooh, bit of politics!)

I had also over the past year or so been to arts festivals and galleries, food related events, I'd been gardening, gone to various Farmer's markets, and several music and comedy events.

Suddenly the other morning on the way to work it hit me. Thinking about things like Tentertainment and the Folk festival, and also having read about Alex James' Harvest Festival which includes live bands alongside cheese tastings and cooking demos, I thought, what about a festival in Tenterden, taking place over two or three days, with live bands scattered about the place, on street corners, in restaurants and pubs, in the rec, down at the station, in the church etc, food tastings and sales from local producers and restaurants (lots of organic and veggie types, not your popcorn-and-candyfloss vendors), local artists and artisans displaying and purveying their wares and giving workshops and how-to's, with lots of gardening and eco-stuff going on (composting and recycling tips, worm bin building, bug hotels etc.) and talks and lectures dotted about the place too? Would that not be the coolest couple of days? What could be more fun than a nice lunch of organic quiche and a couscous salad washed down with a pint of organically produced ale or a glass of local wine while listening to an acoustic jazz combo on a sunny late summer afternoon? So I sat down to write the whole thing down while it was still fresh in my mind. When I got home I told my girlfriend whom I think was a little taken aback but very supportive, and that is when I decided that something had to be done. An idea like that does not come along every day of the week.

I sat down and did some research about other towns in Transition, and found that there wasn't really anything going on nearby (Hythe was the closest). Well, I said to myself, if no other bugger is doing anything, then dammit, I will. So I started the Transition Town Tenterden page on Facebook. That was about 24 hours ago, and it's been a day, I can tell you.

I took my laptop to work and went on to the Tenterden Town  website, which has a forum that seems to consist of about a dozen or so regular contributors who seem to have little else better to do all day than complain about rubbish bins, dog poo and parking. So I signed up and put a little blurb about my Facebook group, with a link on a forum post. I was met with an immediate response from the moderator (self-appointed arbiter of taste and decency) that the topic of Transition Towns should be properly discussed on the forum rather than Facebook, as "not many people use Facebook".
I responded that I knew many local residents who were au fait with the vagaries of the Book of The Face, and since the group was not an official initiative but just a metaphorical 'toe in the water', I would use any forum I saw fit to get the word out about Transitioning. Well, it took about three hours for my comment to actually show up on the forum but I am happy to report that my comments do not seem to get shot down in flames anymore. I'm happy to report that the group has 5 new members in one day, not bad for something only 24 hours old.

I also added a link to the page on Transition Network, which list all initiatives worldwide. We are now a 'Muller' initiative, which means we're mulling the whole thing over before it gets to be official. In a few more weeks I hope to have enough members that we are able to organise a meeting and perhaps bring in someone to speak from another successful group.

Well, anyway, that was just day one.


In these early years of Century 21, two extremely tough challenges present themselves to humankind: that of Climate Change, a very well documented and highly visible reality, which only 20 years ago was still regarded as a bit loony. The other is Peak Oil, which for some obscure reason many people still struggle to get their heads around. But to me, it seems blindingly obvious that oil supplies are finite. Oil will not last forever. Some people liken it to a petrol tank - you're usually pretty okay when your tank is almost on empty, and only when you get down to about 97% empty does your car start to show signs of impending trouble. However, this analogy is incorrect, and problems are going to occur when you are only half empty. Why is this?

Peak Oil is not about running out of oil. We'll probably never run out of oil in the ground. The trouble is, we're getting close to running out of oil that is easy to get at (and therefore cheaper). The harder we have to work to get at oil under the ground, the more expensive it is, until the costs of producing it become prohibitive.

From the start of the 1900s, plentiful oil allowed a coal-based industrialised society to massively accelerate its “development”. From that time, each year there has been more oil (apart from the two oil shocks in the 1970s when Middle East crises caused worldwide recessions). And each year, society increased its complexity, its mechanisation, its globalised connectedness and its energy consumption levels.
The problems start when we’ve extracted around half of the recoverable oil. At this point, the oil gets more expensive (in cash and energy terms) to extract, is slower flowing and of a lower quality. At this point, for the first time in history, we aren’t able to increase the amount of oil that’s coming out of the ground, being refined and reaching the market.
At this point, oil supply plateaus and then declines, with massive ramifications for industrialised societies.

This is why the concept of Transition Towns is a sound one. It makes perfect sense to address this issue on a local basis. Remember back when recycling was a new-fangled concept? All the time we used to hear the phrase 'Think Globally, Act Locally'. Well, this is the time to do it. If world leaders aren't going to, who is? I'll tell you who. We are.

This is why I want to start this group and get our own Transition Initiatives rolling. I feel that this is so important, too important to ignore.