Monthly Archives: July 2008

One step (or stone) at a time

Part of the Operation Noah day activities on the 5th July included a taize service (what’s that, I hear you ask) which was very moving and turned out to be very symbolic of the challenge that we will face in trying to address our carbon foot-print as a community.

As one element of the service, we worked together to move a pile of pebbles from the larger x10 footprint (which Ruth and Josh had used at the school assemblies with the children) to the smaller x1 footprint; but there weren’t really any “rules” and all of this whilst singing the taize as well.

– The first hurdle was “who to start ?”. Well, at least that wasn’t too hard with having Ruth within our community.

– The biggest hurdle was “who to go second ?”; where we all metaphorically looked at each other (and wondered if we were going round in the circle or not). I have forgotten who “broke the mould” but then we fairly easily got into a pattern of moving one stone each from the big footprint to the little one.

– The next hurdle was “well actually, an individual can move more than one stone at a time” and we fairly easily got into a pattern of people moving two or three stones at a time.

– However, the collective realisation dawned, now that we had started the task, that the pile of stones really wasn’t getting moved very quickly (and that we would be singing the taize forever!) and that actually we needed some rather big actions if we were going to finish at a reasonable time. So, the second biggest hurdle was for someone to take a really big handful of stones from one pile to the other.

– Finally, there was one stone left and then one of the younger members of the congregation taking part stepped forward and moved the final stone.

The symbolism here was strong at each stage in the process to the task that we face in Hartley Wintney about thinking about and doing something about our carbon footprint, as we have so clearly been asked to by the children of the village.

– The first steps are always hard. It will be hard to get our community moving and taking action. Breaking the barrier of “why should I go first” is actually pretty strong. There is always something else to be doing in our busy lives. However, a momentum builds up, once you can get things started.

– We are bound to find that the first steps were good to get us going and build up our confidence, but not sufficient to achieve our ends. Again, we will need to work together and it will seem strange “breaking the mould” again and doing things that will really make a difference. At this stage people will need lots of support and encouragement, but these really big actions will also be required for the enormity of the challenge that we face.

– I felt it was significant that the youngest member of the congregation moved the final stone, because our actions today will effect the world that we leave behind for our children and their children.

All in all, it was very thought-provoking … … …

Meeting my MP for the first time

Children of Hartley Wintney present their fabric petition on climate change to their MP

Children of Hartley Wintney present their fabric petition on climate change to their MP

Friday was the first time that I’ve met my own MP ! The occasion was that the primary school children of the Hampshire village, Hartley Wintney, were unfurling a giant petition for their local MP James Arbuthnot, calling on the Government to protect their future. The petition calls on the Government to cut the UK’s carbon footprints by 90%. This was the start of a community climate change weekend event called Operation Noah Day and I’ll try and post more about how it went soon ….

The petition – made of recycled bed sheets – was taken by Ruth Jarman, chair of the Hartley Wintney Operation Noah Group, to all four primary schools in the area and collected hundreds of brightly coloured signatures. Children also received an Operation Noah Day leaflet with five suggestions for all village parents to “Change the way you live because of who you love”. Supporting her was St. John’s Church Careforce volunteer, Josh Parmar.

The wording of the children’s giant petition is “To the UK Government from the community of Hartley Wintney and Dogmersfield. We want to cut our carbon footprint from this (large footprint) to this (10x smaller footprint). We will do our part. We need you to do yours”.

Charity begins at home

Within the transport community, when it comes to “behavioural change” (oh don’t we use some strange terms), we all know that nothing beats “feet on the street”. Gillian Merron heralded the early results from the three Sustainable Transport Towns (Worcester, Peterborough and Darlington) as “astounding”. Surveys all point to the fact that people want better transport. However there is a huge gap between what we say we want and what we do. In the lingo, the approach taken in the three towns was called “Individualised Travel Marketing” – where information is sent to every household, followed by a visit to establish a personalised travel plan to suit them. All the evidence seems to suggest it works. People can’t change their behaviour if they don’t know the options available to them. It is too easy to stay stuck in a rut and stick to your old habits. However, the “personal touch” seems to make all of the difference and I’m not really at all surprised.

Well I thought I’d have a go too and they say that “charity begins at home”, so I have been working with a national charity and a local church to pull together some travel options for my local community of Hartley Wintney, all as part of an event called Operation Noah Day, which is on Saturday 5th July. I hope to keep you posted on the blog on how it goes.

Style of communication really does matter and I’ve just had one of the sweetest messages from one of my fellow volunteers to say that “I love the really local and practical approach and gentle, non nagging style, it will really make people think. Yes please and more – if you have time to produce it!”.