Insights and Ideas: Commonwealth Connections

Yesterday’s Insights and Ideas Cafe co-hosted by Creative Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland was on the theme of Commonwealth Connections to fit in with the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Culture Programme.

The first speaker was the novelist Louise Welsh, who outlined the Empire Cafe project she’s set up with architect Jude Barbor. The Café  will open in the Briggait in Glasgow’s Merchant City from 24 July  to 1 August to coincide with Glasgow’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games. The café will host debates, literary readings, films, art installations and discussions on the theme of Scotland and slavery. Refreshments will be based on products connected to the slave trade, such as Jamaican ginger cake. An anthology featuring contributions from leading Scottish and Caribbean poets has been compiled to be given to customers.

Next Svend Brown talked about the Big Big Sing project, which aims to get people taking part in group singing events across the UK. There is a lot of evidence about how singing is good for physical and mental health and this project aims to tie in with the fact that Glasgow does very poorly in a lot of health related statistics. To celebrate Commonwealth connections, the project is putting together an online Commonwealth songbook. You can find out what’s on in your area here.

After a break for tea, cookies and discussion, Jenny Crowe talked about the Generation Project (website coming soon) which will celebrate 25 years of Scottish Contemporary Art in through curated exhibitions, showcasing the work of over 130 artists, in 60 art galleries across Scotland. These shows are designed to make contemporary art more accessible, particularly to young people, and to stimulate thought about how contemporary art is changing with new technologies.

Finally, Drew Taylor spoke about 44 Stories, a piece of dance theatre based on the fact that of all the countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal, 44 of them are members of the Commonwealth and are competing in the Commonwealth Games. There was some discussion about how this fact is one of the legacies of the colonial rule imposed by Britain in the days of Empire. The show will be happening in the Arches in Glasgow, though I don’t have a note of the dates!

The event got me thinking about my own Commonwealth links and how I could celebrate them. I have three items from Commonwealth countries in the vintage section of the CraftyGreenPoet Etsy shop and I recently posted a poem inspired by Malawian art on one of my other blogs, and I’m thinking of producing an updated version of my Malawian inspired first poetry pamphlet in an ebook format.

Are you celebrating Commonwealth Connections at all?

The next Insights and Ideas Cafe will be 1 May and the theme will be the Festival of Museums.

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.


Green Books 2: Greening the Publishing Industry

In my last post about Green Books, I looked at how individuals can share books and cut down on the carbon footprint of their reading habits. In this post, I’ll discuss what the publishing industry is doing.

More than 30 million trees are cut down every year to make books in the USA. Currently under 10% of the paper used in the US book publishing industry comes from recycled sources*.

Eco-Libris aims to reduce the carbon footprint of reading. You can read a lot about the publishing industry’s attempts to become greener on their website here. The Eco-Libris blog discusses taking a greener approach to printing and publishing.

Eco-Libris work on many different levels. They collaborate with book clubs, book shops, publishers and authors, encourage people and companies to plant trees and educate readers about the carbon footprint of their books.

Some individual publishers take a sustainable approach to the environment. Two Ravens Press for example, operating in the Scottish islands, focuses on publishing contemporary books about nature and the environment and has a robust environmental policy (though it is varely mentioned on their website).

If you review books, you can mention the environmental criteria of the books you review (This is something I always intend to do when I review books on my Crafty Green Poet blog, but as yet, don’t regularly do!).

If you have a publisher then discuss environmental issues with them! They may not be able to do much, but at least you’ve raised their awareness of the issues. If you’re self publishing, look for a local print company and ask them about their environmental policies. More and more printing companies have environmental policies these days, which should cover things such as using recycled paper and environmentally friendly inks.

In my next post, I’ll compare E-readers vs Paper Books in terms of environmental impact.

(This series of posts is based on a similar series i wrote for Brighton Blogger in 2012).

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can read more.

Green Books 1: Sharing Books

Anyone who reads a lot must be aware of the amount of paper that is used in making books! How can we reduce this environmental impact?

The public library is perhaps the best known form of large scale book sharing. Libraries offer access to books for people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. Writers whose books are borrowed from public libraries in the UK are supported through the Public Lending Rights Scheme.

Bookcrossing is a fun way to share books. This international website and real-life project revolves around people leaving books in public places for other people to find. Each book has its own unique number and can then (theoretically at least!) be tracked as it travels the world! Bookcrossing Meet-Ups offer a chance for booklovers to discuss andshare books without the worry of them possibly disappearing without trace.

Many coffee shops, pubs and community centres have shelves of books that people can borrow, or buy for a very small price.

I often swap books with my Mum and with some of my friends, which always leads to good conversation even though we don’t always agree about what we like and dislike!

Charity second hand bookshops in the UK offer a cheaper alternative to the high street bookstores (and often a better choice for those of us with eclectic reading tastes!). Quality of the books can vary and where a public library would get rid of books that are too battered, some charity shops have no such concerns – but this can mean good bargains! It’s good to take your books back to the 2nd hand shop after you’ve finished them so someone else can enjoy them.

There are also a lot of second hand shops run on a business basis, including online. You can sell your books online at Green Metropolis, which offers you the option to either make a bit of money for yourself or to raise money for a variety of charities including the Woodland Trust.

So plenty of ideas there for sharing books to cut down on their carbon footprint (and to save a bit of money too!) Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section!

The next post will look at how the publishing industry can reduce its carbon footprint!

(This series of posts is based on a similar series i wrote for Brighton Blogger in 2012).

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can read more.

Nature is Not for Sale

Yesterday and today Edinburgh has hosted the World Forum on Natural Capital, which is discussing how to put a financial price on nature. Many thinkers and some environmentalists see this as a positive step as it would ensure that the value of nature and ecological services (including clean water and air) is included in decisions around economic development.

Others feel that by putting an economic value on nature, we turn it into a commodity and effectively sell it off to the highest bidder. World Development Movement yesterday held the Nature Not for Sale Forum to ‘stand up to global finance and share ideas to protect our natural world for the benefit of all.’

The first speaker overused economics jargon. Maybe she thought she was speaking to an audience of experts, but I was scratching my head trying to work out exactly what she meant. Yes I’d heard many of these economics jargon words before but so many of them packed together in a speech? Hard work.

The second speaker joined us via Skype and similarly used a lot of jargon.

Over a delicious vegan / vegetarian supper, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I discussed the importance of Plain English and avoidance of jargon when addressing the general public. You want to inspire people to get involved, not leave them wondering over exactly what you meant in your talk.

The panel discussion after supper was distinctly more engaging and contained much less jargon. Speakers discussed a range of ideas including how to appeal to individuals’ personal values to get them engaged in campaigning and acting on issues.

There was discussion around the fact that some conservation bodies are tempted by the possibility of receiving funding for their nature reserves through biodiversity offsetting (where damage to the environment in one place is ‘balanced’ by protecting it in another place.) This could mean however that funding for nature reserves might become dependent on the environment being damaged elsewhere, surely not an overall conservation success! Also specific habitats are irreplaceable and replacing them with something similar elsewhere doesn’t compensate for the specific losses to local wildlife and communities.

One of the speakers made an analogy that if he injured someone in a car crash and then paid for the victim’s medical costs that didn’t make things okay! But effectively that is what is being suggested by biodiversity offsetting.

A member of the audience shared the story about a community in Indonesia (I think) who had protected their local rainforest for generations as they saw it as sacred. A Japanese company then came in and offered to pay the community to look after this forest. This support lasted for a few years. By the time it was withdrawn, the community had lost its traditional reasons for protecting the forests and now saw it as a potential source of income. I think the forest ended up being felled.

At root, the problem is that society has become too focussed on money, believing that everything has a monetary value and that economics are more important than more abstract values. In the small nation of Bhutan, success is measured by Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product (a measure of economic success). That certainly entirely changes the way people perceive the world.

Cross-posted to Crafty Green Poet

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Music Supporting Victims of Hurricane Sandy

I love music but rarely blog about it, but New Arrivals Volume 5 gives me a perfect opportunity!

NAV 5 is the latest in MPress Records‘ compilation series, which showcases established and indie artists while raising funds and awareness for worthy causes. 100% of all funds collected from the sale of NAV5 benefit three NYC-based charities that are still continuing to provide Hurricane Sandy Relief: The Red Hook Initiative (Brooklyn), Project Hospitality Staten Island Hurricane Relief Fund (Staten Island), and Graybeards (The Rockaways).

Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in US history, killing at least 286 people seven countries. Devastating storms like this are likely to become more common across the world as climate change continues to disrupt the world’s weather systems. 

Of course, musical compilations can’t stop climate change, but they can raise awareness and they can help to support people whose lives have been devastated by extreme weather events.

NAV5 features a variety of tracks from international indie talent including: UK folk-pop artists Polly Paulusma and Stephen Langstaff; NYC singer-songwriters Lucy Wainwright Roche and Ari Hest  and a bonus track by Grammy® Winner Paula Cole. I didn’t recognise any of the artists, but that doesn’t matter as I always enjoy discovering new music, particularly when it’s for a good cause and this is a very listenable album. 

You can buy NAV5 or any of the New Arrivals compilations here. NAV5 is available digitally from tomorrow (29 October) and physically on 14 January 2014. Alternatively you can pre-order a physical copy of NAV5.

cross-posted from Crafty Green Poet.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, Mpress Records contacted me via Blogdash. 

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Two Innovative Campaigns to Save Wildlife

World Rhino Day (22 September) celebrates all five species of rhino: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.  Rhinos are threatened with extinction largely due to hunting pressures. At the root of the crisis is the myth that rhino horn contains curative properties. Rhino horn is in fact, like human nails, made of keratin and has no medicinal properties. 

Knowsley Safari Park in Merseyside, northern England is highlighting the plight of the rhinos with an innovative art project.  Throughout September, the Park is asking visitors to donate their finger and toenail clippings in a bid to debunk the myth that rhino horn has medicinal properties.  The collection will run until enough clippings are collected to equate to an adult rhino’s horn. They will then be crafted into an artwork, which will be put on display before being sent to South Africa ahead of the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting in 2016. This campaign really appeals to me because it gets people involved in a practical and thought provoking way and produces a piece of art that will then be used to influence world leaders in their decision making. 

 A similar campaign to help conserve elephants is being run by Care for the Wild, who have got the tooth fairy on board to educate children about elephants. The Tooth Fairy campaign is encouraging children to donate the money left by the tooth fairy to elephant conservation.

 As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

World Green Building Week

World Green Building Week (WGBW), organised by the Green Building Council, is taking place this week (16-20 September 2013) with the theme ‘Greener Buildings, Better Places, Healthier People‘.

The theme underscores the importance of green buildings to people, including healthier workplaces and increased productivity, improved learning outcomes for students and better homes.

Green offices have natural light, fresh air, low toxins and views to the outdoors. As a result they are healthier and more productive places as well as having a lower environmental impact.
Green homes have lower carbon footprints but with fresh air,
insulation and non-toxic materials, they are also healthier, particularly as they cut down on respiratory illnesses for their inhabitants.
Greener schools have more natural daylight which can improve pupils’ performance by a quarter.
What are your green building tips? Feel free to share ideas in the comments section below or share your green building story with the World Green Building Council.
If you want to get more involved you can find Green Building week events across the globe.

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can find out more.