CATs, Mscs and not being able to spell Machynlleth!

So I got on the train at Levenshulme and arrived, 3 trains and 3 hours later, at Machynlleth. A little town in mid-west wales. Found a few other lost “freshers” (or new-dogs as we would come to be known!) and got a taxi a couple of miles to CAT. So CAT (or the Centre for Alternative Technology) is “an environmental charity aiming to inspire, inform and enable people to live more sustainably”. This is where the course took place although it is actually run through the University of East London. So I’m now a student again!

So I would be attending lectures from Tuesday until Sunday lunchtime, but this is no normal course. The lectures took place in the Straw Bale Theatre (Yes made of straw bales), I was staying about 20 metres away in a Self-Build House with 15 other people right next to a pond and 3 geese. The best bookshop ever was 100 metres away (with so many good books I could spend my life in there). The place is in an abandoned slate quarry and has amazing views, no cars and lots of bird song to wake you up in the morning. A bit different to the normal student environment.
Also we got 3 vegetarian meals cooked for us each day; Full English Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with a glass of wine. Nice! So back to the course…

This unit was concerned with Environment and Energy, Resources, Climate Change, Energy Conservation and Urban Sustainability. A little bit of everything and a general overview of other modules. We were busy from 9am til 8.30pm each day (with lots of food stops and time to lie in the sun!) We also had to do a practical and a write up of the practical to be handed in before we set off on the Sunday. Relatively stressful especially due to the lack of computers – I wrote it but my brain is no longer wired correctly to be able to write in a linear fashion without the luxury of copy/cut/paste.

Unfortunately my camera ran out on the first day so I couldn’t take many photos. But I met loads of great people from all careers and walks of life (although there were a lot of disillusioned IT people!), the whole thing was such an incredible experience its quite hard to describe.

One thing we were told and that resonated with me was that we can’t live in a bubble and pretend that because we are eco-people the rest of the world will somehow just follow. The world doesn’t work like that. We need to work out what makes “them” tick (I.e. why are all those people in Shopping Centres buying things they think they need but probably don’t; coupled with stressful jobs and long hours just to be able to afford the repayments on that stuff?) and how to change the mentality + link that to an environmental position… Difficult.

Oh and there were a few trips to the locals (Welsh pubs seemed like somebody’s front lounge) and a party on the last night with a band consisting of the restaurant workers which was great. Sore head on the Sunday morning and a 4 hour trip back to the “real world”. It’s a very strange divide but somehow I’m going to have to try and bridge it! (+ write an essay/prepare a presentation for November’s session)

[tag]CAT, centre for alternative technology, aees, machynlleth, environment[/tag]

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