Category Archives: old

The Thesis

M3 Back to London

So after months of idle and carefree travelling around hamlets, farms and towns of the we decided to head back to the big bad city (well my parents house) a couple of weeks early so I could get on with my thesis. The original plan was to get it done before Christmas but then during travelling I thought that I could intermit and get everything done after the travels. But after a wet September in Scotland I decided I wanted to get home, get warm and get writing!

Well it wasn’t quite that easy to sit down infront of a computer and “get writing”. It’s been about 10 days since we were back and I think I’m now in the position to actual start reading and researching. The bulk of the time has been spent sorting University accounts out, filing paperwork and erm, redesigning this website. Well I wanted to keep track of where my research was heading through the website so others can use the information, so I don’t feel bad at all about spending some time on it.

I’ve also finally got my laptop sync-ed with the desktop using the fabulous dropbox which basically keeps a folder sync-ed between multiple computers and all the files are available on the web too – handy if you aren’t at home and need to read a document. Actually I might make a page of all the tools I’ve used so far (such as google docs, zotero etc) to help keep me organised.

I’ve also started twittering but that’s mainly as I’m fed up with facebook but I did like seeing what everyone was doing.  When If I leave facebook It’ll be an easy way to keep in touch with people hopefully.

So the thesis. Well it’s about local food production, mainly looking at the suburbs of cities rather than the inner city or rural areas. My idea is that houses in these areas tend to have larger gardens and some more open space for growing but at the same time people tend to travel more than those in urban areas to shops, school and work. So their environmental footprint may be bigger. I want to do some surveys and mapping (I’m not 100% sure on my primary research at the moment) to see if this is the case and how much food could be produced.

Luckily there are quite a few initiatives around the country looking into localisation (or producing, living and consuming more locally), including of course Transition Towns. There are plenty of books on the subject (thats another idea a book list!) and many government documents which I can comment on once I’ve read them. Also helpfully I’ve got a couple of theses from ex-students at CAT so I can expand/improve on their work hopefully.

So it’s going to be a bit of a stressful battle over the next 12 11 weeks. I’ve at least got a deadline of Christmas Eve, so by then I can be drinking mulled wine and eating a mince pie with the satisfied feeling of having written 15,000 words on something (hopefully) interesting. And in the knowledge that I can head of to Europe and beyond without having to worry about it.

But for now, I’d better get reading….

6 ways mushrooms can save the world

We’ve been getting into fungi foraging during our trip and the prime season for mushrooms is upon us. I think we have found at least 60 different varieties so far this year and are slowly starting to understand what they are, whether they are safe to eat (warning: don’t eat any mushroom unless you are absolutely sure what it is!) and how they work underneath the ground to break up organic matter. It’s safe to say that without fungi the world would cease to function as it does now.

Anyway I keep harping on about the following video which I originally watched on TED, but you can watch it through youtube now.


Carbon Emissions and the Cinquecento

I’ve been getting some flak for being “green/environmental” and then proceeding to spend 4 months bombing around the UK in a car. In actual fact we have driven 6121 miles this summer and the final straw was driving nearly 80 miles yesterday (when the trip was nearly officially over) to Formby Woods; an organic food shop in Liverpool and then for a pizza… After that I have vowed to put no more petrol into the car apart from trips where a car is deemed necessary.

This got me thinking. As we were no longer living in a house and therefore weren’t using as much gas and electricity and other carbon producing items, how would our gas-guzzling 900cc car fare?

I’ve done a few quick calculations to compare a standard UK person’s CO2 emissions with our non-standard emissions of the last 116 days.

According to Mark Lynas the average is 9,400kg (9.4 tonnes). Someone in India produces 1,200kg whereas the US/OZ are around the 20,000kg level.

The amount of fuel we bought (551 litres) during the summer corresponds approximately to 1280kg of CO2 emitted (you multiply litres by 2.32 to get this result) over 116 days. So individually pro-rated our yearly emissions would have been 2011kg. This is about a quarter of the UK’s average.

I admit this isn’t quite the whole picture. We used 1 CampingGaz canister during the summer, spent some time in houses, bought food, used some public transport and also had showers in the campsites and places we were staying. However having worked it out I feel somewhat less bad about our impact especially as a lot of the activities we were engaged in were environmentally beneficial (WWOOF for example).

I’m not advocating everyone goes and lives in a tent (it got very damp in Scotland…) but it shows that you can’t just say one thing is bad and another is good. To cite today’s Guardian where it shows middle class people feel they can take a long-haul flight because they have recycled every single sheet of paper in their house for instance! This seems to be a common statement as if recycling is going to save the world whereas it’s just the tip of the (melting) iceberg.

It has also given me an insight into the big difference between city living (Manchester where there is no excuse not to use public transport/cycle/walk) and rural communities in Scotland (1 bus a day, 10 miles to the nearest shop). In these situations why people rely on cars and therefore some sort of lift-sharing scheme would be more beneficial that perhaps having an empty bus running every 15 minutes.

Little Car

But anyway know we are back in civilisation with traffic jams, lights and cat’s eyes and driving is no longer a pleasure. On the Scottish Isles everybody waved as they passed which was hard-warming. So it’s back on the National Express for me over to Leeds on Friday. It’s much more relaxing on the M62 when you aren’t driving…

Prepare for some posts!

Yes once again I’m feeling ready to write a few blog posts. Its been a few months since I was publishing my sketches and essays from the MSc I was doing. But we’ve been travelling around the UK for a couple of months now and so much has gone on. I can’t possibly write about it all but I’m going to divide the next few posts into the number of miles we’ve driven (yes I know but more about that in a post too)

For now I suggest you take a look at Leanne’s blog. She’s been writing about food related issues since the New Year and more recently about how well we’ve been eating since we set off on the road. Check out eggbutnobacon.